Lehman Strauss’ “Why God Became Man”: A Critique

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Liberty University School of Religion

Theo. 313-B02

31 January 2011

Scripture quotations marked (LEB) are from the Lexham English Bible. Copyright 2010 Logos Bible Software. Lexham is a registered trademark of Logos Bible Software.

Introduction:

The author found Lehman Strauss’ article “Why God Became Man” extremely helpful in some respects and extremely inconsistent in other respects. Strauss, throughout much of the article demonstrates a form of Biblical coherency that is highly respectable. However, on other occasions, he seemingly relies on unproven bias and presents his claims as though there were no other conflicting or refuting systems of thought in Christendom. What follows is a review of the strengths and weaknesses of this argument, with a personal conclusion following the critique of Strauss’ helpful work.

Strengths:

Strauss did an excellent job in a number of different areas. First, it was very helpful that Strauss differentiated between the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth of the Lord. This was a necessary section because it set forth clear definitions of what would later be presented regarding the Incarnation. Next, it was very helpful that Strauss went to the text of Scripture regarding this issue and that he did not simply set forth a philosophical, metaphysical argument for the validity of the Incarnation. This article is replete with Scripture references and as such, it often allowed the reader to follow the course or chain of references that the author, Strauss, is attempting to prove. Next, it was noticed by the author that Strauss approached this article with a non-neutral, Biblical worldview, and throughout the entirety of the article his Biblical presuppositions were clearly seen. This very concept is forthrightly stated within the text when Strauss proclaims; “God sending His Son presupposes that God had a Son. Christ was the Son in His eternal relationship with the Father, not because He was born of Mary.”1

Perhaps the greatest strength of the entire article is seen in Strauss’ exegesis of Philippians 2:5-11. This was a wonderful section where Strauss creates a chain of Incarnational facts that are presented in the Pauline text. In specific, Strauss highlights the following areas in excellent fashion;

  • ”He made Himself of no reputation.”
  • ”He took upon Him the form of a servant.
  • “He was made in the likeness of men”
  • ”And being found in fashion as a man.”
  • “He humbled Himself.”
  • “He became obedient undo death.”
  • ” Even the death of the cross.”2

In his exposition of verse 6, Strauss proclaimed the following that in a sense disproves the whole of Arian and Jehovah Witness thought when he stated; “He ‘thought it not robbery to be equal with God’ (vs. 6). The eternal Son did not consider it a thing to be seized unlaw­fully to be equal with the Father.”3 This was a very helpful and overly simple explanation of this verse that rings with the sound of truth. It is also an argument that can be taken past the text of Philippians 2, if one considers the argument set forth in Hebrews chapter 1, verses 5-14, regarding the position and nature of the eternal Son.

Another excellent strength of the Strauss article is seen in his treatment of the unbeliever and their rejection of Christ the eternal Savior. Here, Strauss uses classical Pauline language in describing the rebellion of the unbeliever when he writes; “Men may hinder or suppress the truth by their unrighteous living, but there is that which may be known of God which ”is manifest in them.” (c.f. Rom. 1:18)4 In this same section, the truth of the Gospel and mans dreadful condition shines forth when Strauss states; “But the glorious attributes of a loving God manifested in behalf of sinners can be found in no place or person apart from Jesus Christ.”5 This was an excellent and Biblical declaration of the saving power of Christ Jesus and a well appreciated point.

In conclusion of this section of the essay, it is right to proclaim that Strauss did a fine job in presenting the many different nuances of the Incarnation. Strauss held firm to the Christian worldview throughout the duration of the article and never swayed into a line of autonomous thought that was absent the Biblical text as the main support for the argument set forth. Moreover, Strauss did an excellent job in his treatment of the Philippians 2 text; with a wonderful explanation of the seven points that he presented on the Incarnation.

Weaknesses:

Regarding the weaknesses of the Strauss article, the author finds in best to start in presentation. Meaning, this article was at times, very confusing to follow and while it is appreciated that Strauss highlighted all of his major points with Scriptural references, it could also be said that this method led to a certain degree of “proof texting.” However, it is also helpful to state that this alleged weakness is not seen until Strauss’ treatment of the restoration of Israel and beyond, starting on page 8.

Another weakness of this article, though no fault of the author, is the translation used throughout the duration of the text. Strauss seemingly used either the KJV or the ASV and while these translations are excellent in and of themselves, they do not relate as well to the modern reader. However, as previously noted, this is not a fault in regards to Strauss himself, considering the time-frame that he penned this work. Rather, it is simply a general observation about the article itself.

Finally, the major weakness regarding this article was the presupposed Dispensational line of reasoning that was presented in pages 8-10. For example, on page 9 of the article, Strauss states; “According to prophecy, the incarnate One, Immanuel, the virgin’s Son, is to occupy David’s throne”, seemingly making this a future event. However, Peter tells the reader in Acts 2 that the Lord Jesus is already seated on the throne of David in His positioning at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:29-36).

Moving on, Strauss continues with this line of reasoning when he states; “In studying the purposes of the Incarnation we are forced to the scriptural observation that the eternal Son became Man in order that He might be King of the earth…The incarnate Son is to appear in His resurrection body and is to sit on the throne of His glory.”6 However, the Lord Jesus Himself stated that He already had full dominion and power over the earth as King when He proclaimed in Matthew 28:18; “And Jesus approached and spoke to them, saying, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” (Matt. 28:18, LEB)7 This Divine truth, coupled with the previous statements of Christ’s current enthronement via Peter in Acts 2, answers the concept set forth by Strauss regarding the future reigning of Christ; in favor of a current reigning of Christ over His Kingdom in a non-physical fashion. Hence, it is believed that the non-addressing of serious issues such as these led to a tremendous amount of inconsistencies in the latter portion of the Strauss text.

Section Two

Personal Conclusion:

It is believed that Strauss’ treatment of the major tenants of the Incarnation were clear and concise. Strauss made a wonderful effort to demonstrate his points from Scripture and he is to be commended for such an effort. However, there were some major mistreatments of the Biblical text that left the latter portions of this article wanting (as noted above). Regardless of these mistreatments and inconsistencies, it can be said that Strauss offered the reader an excellent contribution to a difficult topic.

The author would like to add to the Strauss text by proclaiming that the setting aside of the Glory of Christ (see Strauss page one) was in part, the intimate relationship that Jesus shared with the Father for all eternity. This is seen in the prologue of John by the Greek word “pros” which describes the intimate relationship that the Father and the Son shared in eternity past.8 This is the very same “glory” that is described by the Lord Jesus Christ in John 17:5 when He proclaims to the father in the High Priestly Prayer; “And now Father, glorify Me, [at your side] with the glory that I had with you [at your side], before the world existed (John 17:5, LEB).

Also, Strauss made an excellent case for the Lord Jesus Christ within his Philippians 2 argument and exegesis. Here, Strauss stated on page 2 that the Lord Jesus was in eternity past “in the form of God” (c.f. Phil. 2:6). Added to this immutable truth is the Hebrews 1:3 description of Christ as the exact representation of the essence of Yahweh. Here, the Greek word “charactermeans a “copy” or “exact representation” – and please note that this is not a verb. Meaning, an act or action of copying did not take place; which would make Jesus a temporal copy/representation. Rather, the verse and the word proclaim that Jesus is the exact copy or representation of Yahweh to include all of God’s attributes and eternality.9 This would have been a wonderful point to add to the already strong argument that Strauss presented. Nevertheless, much of what Strauss did present is extremely helpful regarding this topic and his Christology was sound, Biblical and extremely helpful.

1 Lehman Strauss. “Why God Became Man.” (Bible.org), 1997: Pg. 1.

2 Ibid., Pg. 2-3

3 Ibid., Pg. 2

4 Ibid., Pg. 3

5 Ibid., Pg. 4

6 Ibid., Pg. 9

7 Hall W. Harris III: The Lexham English Bible. Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010. Mt 28:18

8 See John Chapter 1:1-2, where the Lord was “with” God. Here the Greek word “πρός” means to share in communion by or near someone. See BDAG page 875.

9 The BDAG states of this word: “produced as a representation, reproduction, representation, fig… Christ is χαρ. τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ an exact representation of (God’s) real being Hb 1:3.” Arndt, William; Danker, Frederick W.; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000; Pg. 1077.

Bibliography:

Arndt, William; Danker, Frederick W.; Bauer, Walter: A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature. 3rd ed. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000

Harris, W. Hall, III: The Lexham English Bible. Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2010

Strauss, Lehman. “Why God Became Man.” (Bible.org) 1997: 1-10.

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