Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Essence and Function, Part II: Definition and Distinction

Happy New Year to everyone! I’m back, after a month away, to begin work at “Men and Women” for the year of 2010. It is such a blessing to be returning to the work I love once more!!

Since I was in the middle of a series on “Essence and Function,” I will pick up where I left off. This post will continue our series.

I told you in the last post that, as students of the Bible, all of us who name the name of Christ should be philosophers (which means, we should be “lovers of wisdom”). The Bible tells us the importance of godly wisdom and the benefits that godly wisdom provides for the believer.

Now, on to the task at hand: the definitions and distinctions of “essence” and “function.”

First, let’s define “essence”:

1. The intrinsic or indispensable properties that serve to characterize or identify something.

2. The most important ingredient; the crucial element.

3. The inherent, unchanging nature of a thing or class of things. (

Let’s notice some things about the above definitions of essence. First, we see that it is an “intrinsic” property that “identifies” something. It is important to see essence as an identifier because essence is the DEFINING MARK of an object or person. In addition, the essence of a thing is its “unchanging” nature. The essence stays the same. There is no change that occurs in the essence whatsoever. This is important because, if this is the case, then the essence must represent that which is “permanent” when compared with the function of something. The function, then, will be the opposite of essence; and if the essence is permanent, then the function must be temporary. It cannot be permanent because its duration (amount of time) must be distinguished from the essence (which is permanent). The opposite of “permanent” is “temporary.” Just keep these things in mind.

Next, let’s look at the definition of “function”:

1.the natural action or intended purpose of a person or thing in a specific role
2. a factor dependent upon another or other factors

Function relates to “purpose” or “action” of a person. According to the second definition, the function is “dependent upon another or other factors.” This means that the function is a dependent variable. As I was always taught in mathematics, a “dependent” variable is that which needs something else in order to exist; an “independent” variable, on the other hand, is something that can stand on its own.

Take for example two factors, “time” and “height.” Time is an independent factor---in other words, time can stand on its own. However, height is a dependent factor, for I can only grow if time exists. If time does not exist, then I cannot grow. Another good example would be “seed growth of plant” and “weather.” The weather is the independent variable, because if the weather does not cooperate, then the seed will not grow. But even if the seed does not grow, the weather will still exist! This is why the weather is the independent variable: because it exists despite seed growth (or the lack thereof).

According to the definition of “function” given above, then, the function is a dependent variable, not able to exist without another factor. In this case, function would not exist without essence (think about it: if something does not exist, then it cannot function!). I think that it’s pretty easy to conceive of something that does not exist as having no function or purpose. After all, no one sits around and talks about imaginary objects as part of everyday life, do they?

Now, let’s talk more about Jesus and the Father. I have made the point here at the site that essence and function are opposites. If they are, and function is dependent upon essence (essence being permanent), then the function of something or someone must be temporary. If we use this in regards to Christ, He is ETERNALLY EQUAL in His essence, but TEMPORARILY SUBORDINATE in His function.

Why is Jesus’ function “temporarily subordinate”? Because it follows the meaning of function. Function is dependent upon the essence. If Jesus had not been God, He COULD NOT have been the Savior of the world (for the only one who could save mankind was God Himself). If one wants to debate about function, ask yourself this: “Could Jesus have been just a mere man AND the Savior of the world?” I think we all know the answer to that question (of course, it’s “NO WAY!”).

Now, to test this theory out of essence and function, let’s examine the view of the complementarians regarding Jesus:


Now, according to our definitions above, function must be dependent on essence. Function cannot be permanent if essence is, because function cannot exist without essence. Since this is the case, subordinate function cannot be “eternal.” Why? because “eternal subordination” implies that subordination is a permanent factor. In other words, complementarians, when they label subordination as “eternal,” imply that function can exist without essence (which it cannot!)...

We see this in everyday life. Take a student for instance: if that student were to lose his humanness, could he still be a student? No. Where have you ever seen a monkey go to class, sit, pay attention, answer questions, and take examinations, pass them, and function as a human being? I will boldly confess that I’ve never seen that sight before! And chances are, you haven’t either---which means that humanness is essential to the function of “being a student.” However, a human doesn’t have to function as a student---he could be a recording artist, for example, and still be human! “student function” is not necessary for a person to be human---“humanness” is!

I’ll give a real-life example of essence and function. In World War II, during the Holocaust, Hitler killed over 6 million Jews. I read Elie Wiesel’s “Night” and learned that Hitler killed all the Jews who seemed to be elderly and of old age. Wiesel writes in his book that he and others would run for some time before their doctor appointments, in order to show up “red” in the face and give the appearance that they were “young-blooded.” If they looked old and tired in any sense, the doctors would sentence them to the concentration camps, where they would die. Hitler reasoned that if a Jew could no longer function in hard labor, then that Jew was no longer human (and thus, no longer worthy of human life). Hitler advocated much of Darwinian biological evolution into his practices; and Darwin himself believed that man is just a machine: take away his function and he is no longer human. This explains eugenics and death in the cases of the paralyzed, comatose, and handicapped (whether mental or physical).

But this has also become the reasoning behind abortions. Have you ever wondered why abortions are so popular over the United States? Abortions have become the “new fad” of conception because they presuppose a Darwinian view: that man is just a machine, and without function, nothing at all. So if a fetus is present within a woman, but cannot function like a person, then the fetus is no person at all (just a bunch of biological raw material)---and can be “done away with.” And why? Because function, in the minds of humans, has become EQUAL to essence. I believe, however, that the fetus is still a human being (even if the fetus cannot “do” anything). And I believe the fetus remains human because essence is over function. Regardless of the human’s function, the human is still a human (even a fetus!).

I have one more thing to say about Jesus’ subordinate function, but I’ll save it until next time.

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