By Donnie V. Rader
The week of June 19-20, 22-23, 1995 Gene Frost and John Welch debated the question of whether the inner being of Jesus was changed when he came to earth. The first two nights Gene Frost affirmed, “Resolved: The Scriptures teach that the inner being of Jesus, His Spirit, was unchanged when He came to earth.” The last two nights John Welch affirmed, “Resolved: The Scriptures teach that when Jesus came to earth His spirit was changed.”
That debate is now in book form. The value of having the debate in book form is that the material is easier to study. It is easier to follow each speaker’s argument. With the book the reader can read and reread the more involved points and flip back to things referred to earlier in the de-bate. I have the videos of the debate and have watched them. For me, I got a clearer picture of the points being made by reading the book.
There are times the one who is studying a debate will want to go back to a previous speech to see what the disputant is responding to. That is much easier with a book than with a video or audio tape. Additionally, some of the charts, that are not as clear on a tape, can be examined closely in the book.
Reading a debate book allows the reader to look at the arguments being made rather than being impressed or “turned off’ by the personality and manner of either speaker.
In the “Foreword” Gene states that John initially endorsed the publishing of the debate. However, after much delay John complained that he had been insulted in the negotiations and therefore would not give his “permission” to have the debate transcribed. John copyrighted his charts and forbade that they be published in the transcript. Gene stated, “We will honor his copyright of his charts. They are not essential to following the debate as one reads it. The text of his charts are in the text of his speeches.” (Fore-word).
If any one wants a copy of John’s charts they are avail-able from him on his CD-ROM: “The Humanity of Jesus.”
This short article cannot give a complete analysis or summary of the debate. However, a few observations about the content of the book is in order.
Gene Frost contended that the inner being (the eternal spirit identified as God) of Jesus was not changed or altered when he came to earth. He argued that “any characteristic that could be divested would be an acquired characteristic, and not an intrinsic characteristic. There-fore, there is no part of the very nature of God that can be surrendered and God still be the God of heaven. All that make the being or nature of God all the characteristics that make God `God’ is unchangeable” (First speech, p. 2). Three passages were used as major arguments: Malachi 3:6, Hebrews 1:12, and Hebrews 13:8.
John Welch argued that if Jesus limited himself in one spiritual attribute, that constitutes the change that Frost’s proposition denied. John said, “Anytime we can find in-sight, feeling, and will, we have identified the spirit, the inner being of man or God” (First speech, p. 8). Frost pointed out that they were debating the “inner being.” Frost said, “the proposition is that Jesus was unchanged in this inner being. We’re not talking about the emotions, the insight, the will. We’re talking about the being… there’s a difference between what the spirit possesses, the power, etc., and the being” (Second speech, p. 13).
Welch made four major arguments (one each night). In fact, Welch tried to be in the affirmative every night. Mon-day: the knowledge of Jesus. Welch contended that if Jesus learned anything that suggests a change in his spirit. Frost responded by citing that Jesus had unlimited knowledge (p. 33-34). He cited passages showing that Jesus knew such things as where he came from, what was in heaven, why he came to earth, the thoughts of others, how he would die, when he would die, who would betray him, when all he came to do was finished and where he was going.
Tuesday: the temptation of Jesus. Welch contented, “If he was tempted, his spirit had to be changed” (p. 40).
Thursday: the suffering of Jesus. Welch said, “If, ladies and gentlemen, he was troubled in spirit, it was a change in his spirit because, friends, God is not troubled” (p. 57).
Friday: The death of Jesus. Welch said, “Death constituted a change in the soul of Jesus and it constitutes a change from several standpoints” (p. 80). The most shocking part of the debate was when John argued that the spirit of Jesus died. Read the following quote carefully.
God before coming to this earth, Jesus, changed. He was spirit before coming to this earth. Now then, we want to know tonight. Did the Son of God die for us? Quite simple. Or was it just a body that died. You know all of the heresies that are associated with that simple question. You know all the people who have taught that the spirit never died and never was there, that it left right before death or right after death, that it was only a body that died on the cross. You know those heresies. We want to know (p. 80).
As you read the debate you will notice that John Welch spent a lot of time quoting from brethren. His stated that the reason for that was, “We’re trying to show you that what we’re teaching you has been taught and believed in the churches of Christ for a long time. It is not new” (p. 80).
In the debate book you will find a good thorough discussion of the nature of God which gets at the heart of the issue (cf. pp. 71-78).
The last night of the debate Gene Frost summarized the difference:
When this controversy began the issue was over whether Jesus divested or was divested of his divine qualities and powers. John Welch, from the beginning, contended that Jesus surrendered, divested, had given up his divine powers and qualities. And I, from the beginning, contended that Jesus retained his deity (Col. 2:9), “in him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily” and only limited the powers as they would prevent his role as a servant (p. 85).
You will find reading the book interesting. I enjoyed reading the book much more than I did watching the videos.
The book is a 100 page 8’h x 11 (double column) book. It is spiral bound. It sells for $6.50 (postage and handling included). Order from Gene Frost, 712 Victoria Place, Louisville, KY 40207. If you have an interest in this issue that has disturbed brethren for the past several years, you will want to buy this book.
Guardian of Truth XL: No. 18, p. 23-24
September 19, 1996