Posse non or non posse

Nothing to do with cowboys and sherrifs with their gathered together posse, but a bit of Latin: posse non pecare or non posse pecare – mainly a question regarding the human life of Jesus: able not to sin or not able to sin. If Jesus was not able to sin then in what sense did he willingly submit to the divine purposes? Anyway quite a discussion back in the day and one that extended to the four states of humanity. Ah well!!

So what about me? By that I don’t mean something like ‘can I make sinless perfection?’ but what about the REAL me? 1 John can make a seemingly set of contrasting statements:

If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us (1 John 1:8).
My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin (2:1).
No one who abides in him sins (3:6).
Those who have been born of God do not sin because God’s seed abides in them (3:9).
We know that those who are born of God do not sin, but the one who was born of God protects them, and the evil one does not touch them (5:18).

So which is it? ‘I do not sin’ is my statement (the hypothetical ‘me’, just for clarification) and I am deceived; or I read this letter so that I may not sin and if (and only ‘if’) I sin I can at least get back on course. And of course claiming to be born of God it is self evident that I do not sin!!!

I am sure the writer is making a few points considerably deeper than I can grasp but I think at the heart of it is what (who) I can see. In the midst of the letter we read:

What we do know is this: when he is revealed, we will be like him, for we will see him as he is. (3:2).

‘See him as he is’. I am sure that when I claim ‘I know God’ it is in part true, and in part carries a little bit of self deception. Maybe that is why Paul corrects himself in Gal. 4:9:

Now, however, that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God

Do I really ‘know’ God; do I truly see God as s/he is? And as Jesus is the revelation of God (see me, see the Father) if I see Jesus as he is then I can truly claim to know God, and if I truly see Jesus then I will be like him. In truth non posse pecare, not able to sin. Not because of some pre-ordained inner nature but because of being captivated and thus motivated by love. I think Jesus was posse non pecare (not to sin being a choice, otherwise he was not like us in every way) and also non posse pecare (not able to sin) as the choice was made. Love, eternal love, permeated his being, reflected through him to us so in that sense he was not able to sin – the love makes no room for sin.

Anyway, some of all this Latin can swing around speculative discussions but what remains is my sight of Jesus, not my trying harder will help me keep on course. We see in part… one day we will see him as he is.

Jesus: great Teacher / Learner

Jesus was more than a great Rabbi, but a great teacher and revealer of who God truly is. When he spoke there was a wisdom that astounded people, so his words are words of ‘eternal life’, and the words are just that because they come from his inner reality, that reality that carried and revealed the God he spoke about.

Following on from the post on sinlessness being also a growth toward a fullness of true humanity, rather than something static and intrinsic to some internal nature, I have one further suggestion.

Jesus was a GREAT TEACHER because he was a GREAT LEARNER.

Jesus and sinlessness

A little cheat here – this post is a copy of a post I have written on the forum that I hope will develop with respect to discussing the book(s) I am writing on explorations in theology (invisible sub-title – ‘and with huge gaps in the suggestions’). I have suggested book #1 a re-centring of the concept of sin as being to fail to be truly human. That made me think – so if we re-centre that definition, we should also try to re-centre the definition of sinlessness.

Forum link:


An interesting possibility with regard to sin / sinlessness. If the heart of sin is defined as ‘never discovering the reason for which one was born’ (a paraphrase of Walter Wink’s creative approach), or as failing to be truly human, thus falling short of the glory of God (my attempt!), we would also need to re-think sinlessness.

Traditionally we have sin as falling short of a set of standards, and sinlessness (of Jesus) as being some form of perfection. If that view is badly skewed Jesus becomes the superhuman. However, when we raise questions such as ‘did baby Jesus cry?’, (or ‘did he push back against his parents’) we press into normal human behaviour and development. It is very hard not to attribute this level of normalcy to Jesus, otherwise in what sense was he fully human. So why not also posit other areas of development? He lived life as a first-Century Jew, his culture influencing him. He does not arrive here from somewhere else untouched by here. He is a baby that grows. I suggest that he grew in his truly humanness as he was confronted by situations. He learned obedience…

Although he was a son he learned obedience from what he suffered and, once made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for who obey him (Heb. 5: 8,9).

These verses are either tied specifically to the struggle in Gethsemane (verse 7), but even if it is I think we are not pushing it too far to posit that what was applied to his struggle in Gethsemane, was typical of his journey throughout his life. He is on a journey toward ‘truly’ human. Once he becomes ‘perfect’ (the verb from the word group telos, to reach the goal). Although I question the literalness of Adam and Eve, the narrative does not have them created ‘perfect’ but with the possibility of moving toward perfection or away from it. To manifest glory, or to manifest shame; to display the image of God, or to distort it. The verdict is, whether we are in the people of the Law or not, all (‘both’: Jew and Gentile alike) have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

Jesus is not manifested ‘perfect’ – in the same sense of Adam and Eve. He can move toward ‘perfection’ (reach the goal of being truly human). It is a journey. Once reached he becomes the source of eternal salvation.

Did Jesus know the right response before the various events, or does he make the right responses when required? He challenges Simon the Pharisee concerning his sight of the prostitute, with the words ‘do you see this woman?’ Jesus saw the woman, but when did he see the woman? Did he approach the situation ‘perfect’ and ready, or was it a challenge to him and then he came through yet this one more hurdle on the path to being truly human.

He became perfect (a process), though was never with sin at any point.

[Another example might be that of the Syro-Phoenician woman, asking for healing for her daughter. Jesus replies with (a defence?) that he was sent to the house of Israel; she replies with ‘but even the dogs eat the crumbs’. Jesus replied with a comment about her faith, someone outside of the Israel community – and a woman. Does she help Jesus to jump another barrier, another prejudice? We could also suggest the centurion whose servant is healed simply through Jesus speaking the word, causing Jesus to respond that he had not found such faith anywhere else in Israel (Lk. 7:9). Are these encounters with non-Jews (and a woman) essential to help Jesus on the path of true-humanness? And on the latter story the connection to Cornelius, the centurion might make an interesting link (also in a book written by Luke).]