Many of Dake’s doctrinal errors begin with his misunderstanding of God’s nature. He states, “God has a spirit body with bodily parts like man.” 21 The only difference between God’s body and man’s, according to Dake, is that God’s body is a spiritual substance while man’s body is a material substance. He offers several lines of faulty reasoning to support his view. First, he argues that since the natural body will be raised a spiritual body, this means that spirit beings have bodies:
Paul speaks of the human flesh-and-bone bodies in the resurrection as being “spiritual” (1 Cor. 15:42–44), and “like unto his glorious body” (Luke 24:39; Phil. 3:20–21); so if human bodies that become spiritualized are still material and tangible, then certainly God and other spirits can have bodies just as real and still be spirit beings. After all, John 4:24 is a mere statement of fact — that God is a Spirit — but it does not define and analyze a spirit. 22
First Corinthians 15:42–44, however, does not refer to the nature of God, but to the nature of the resurrected human body. “Spiritual body,” moreover, in this context, does not mean a body made of spiritual substance; rather, it means that the physical, material, flesh-and-bone body that will be resurrected and made immortal and imperishable will no longer be dominated by the flesh (i.e., the sinful nature) but by the Spirit.
Dake also argues that since humans were created in God’s image and have bodies, God must have a body as well: “If man was made in the image and likeness of God bodily, then God must have a body, and an outward form and shape.” 23 Mormons make the same argument. It is false, however, to assume that because we are like God, God must be like us. Norman Geisler and Ron Rhodes explain, “Just because all horses have four legs does not mean that all four-legged things are horses. And just because God made male and female does not mean he is male and female. ‘God is Spirit’ (John 4:24), yet he made people with bodies (Gen. 2:7). Just because we have a physical body does not mean that God has one too.” 24
Dake asserts that the Bible plainly speaks of God as having a face, hands, eyes, arms, legs, and other body parts just like any other person. 25 He recognizes that the Bible sometimes uses language that obviously is figurative, such as when it says Jesus is “the door” (John 10:7); however, based on his rule to “take the Bible literally where at all possible,” he contends that the passages that attribute human body parts to God should be interpreted literally. In other words, he believes it is possible for God to have a body, and therefore interprets these passages literally.
There is a problem with this simplistic approach: whether it is possible for God to have a body is a philosophical question that must be answered before interpreting passages that speak of God’s body parts. It is similar to the question of whether God can lie: whether it is possible for God to lie (He cannot because of His nature) is a question that must be answered before interpreting the biblical statement, “God cannot lie.” It cannot be answered based on the biblical statement alone, because it is logically possible that God lied in that statement.
Many philosophical arguments prove that God cannot have a body; for example, if God has a body that is composed of parts, then He must have been composed (i.e., created, assembled) by another being greater than Himself, for He could not have composed Himself. In other words, if God has a body, He is not really God. Another argument is that bodies exist in space and time; but God created space and time; therefore, He must exist apart from space and time. God, therefore, cannot have a body.
The point of these arguments is that it is logically impossible for God to have a body because of His nature (i.e., what God is). A body is limited, temporal, changing, visible, material, composed of parts, and present in only one location at a time, whereas God is unlimited, eternal, unchanging, invisible, immaterial, not composed of parts, and always present everywhere; therefore, God cannot have a body. (This doesn’t mean that one of the persons of the Trinity could not take on, or add, a human nature that includes a material body, as is the case with Jesus who now has two natures: divine and human.)
If it is logically impossible for God to have a body, then those passages that speak of God’s body parts cannot be interpreted literally; they must be interpreted figuratively. When biblical authors attribute human characteristics to God, they are using a figure of speech called anthropomorphism. This means that they are referring to God in terms of human body parts or passions. Speaking figuratively of God’s hands, eyes, anger, or even love, helps finite humans comprehend truths about an infinite God and the way He acts. Theologian Lewis Sperry Chafer comments, “Where physical members are thus ascribed to God, it is not a direct assertion that God possesses these members, or a corporal [physical] body with its parts; but that He is capable of doing precisely those things which are the functions of the physical part of man.” 26
If all the characteristics that are ascribed to God in the Bible were taken literally, one would end up with an absurd view of God as having wings and feathers (Ps. 17:8), being made of stone (Ps. 18:31), or having eyes that literally “run to and fro throughout the whole earth” (2 Chron. 16:9 KJV). Dake recognizes that ascribing literal birdlike or rocklike characteristics to God results in absurd conclusions; however, he does not recognize that ascribing literal humanlike characteristics to God results in absurd conclusions as well. By taking anthropomorphic passages literally, Dake has denied the historic Christian doctrine of God. He, instead, has “exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man” (Rom. 1:23 NASB).
Dake defines the Trinity as “the union of three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in one (unified) Godhead or divinity, so that all three persons are one in unity and eternal substance, but three separate and distinct persons as to individuality.” 27 This statement is similar to historic Christian definitions of the Trinity, such as in the ancient creeds, but Dake’s view of the Trinity clearly is not the same as the historic Christian view.
The historic Christian view of the Trinity — that God is one being constituted by three persons — is “foolish and unscriptural, to say the least,” says Dake. 28 He states, it is a fallacy “that there is only one person or one being called God.” 29 Dake says that the Trinity is three separate and distinct persons in one God; however, he defines person as “a rational being with bodily presence, soul passions, and spirit faculties.”30 In his view, person and beingmean the same thing. He concludes, therefore, that the Trinity is three separate and distinct beings, each with a body, soul, and spirit: “What we mean by Divine Trinity is that there are three separate and distinct persons in the Godhead, each one having His own personal spirit body, personal soul, and personal spirit in the sense that each human being, angel, or any other being has his own body, soul and spirit.” 31
This characterization of the Trinity as three separate beings is different than the historic Christian view that the Trinity is three separate persons who are united in one essence or substance — in other words, one being. When Dake says “all three persons are one in unity and eternal substance,” he means three separate beings who are one in unity or purpose. It is true that all three persons in the Trinity are one in purpose, but the historic Christian view is that “one in substance” means one in being (essence or nature). In other words, the Trinity is three persons (three whos) who are one being (one what).
The Athanasian Creed (c. AD 361) was written partly to defend the orthodox understanding of the Trinity against an error known as tritheism, which says that the Trinity is three separate Gods. It states, “We worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; neither confounding the Persons: nor dividing the Substance.” 32 Trinitarians have historically understood substance here to mean essence or being, not purpose as Dake argues.
Trinitarians, moreover, have not understood being to mean the same thing as person, as Dake argues, otherwise the Trinity would be three infinite, perfect beings. Theologian Henry Thiessen points out, “There can be only one infinite and perfect being. To postulate two or more infinite beings is illogical and inconceivable.” 33 One reason there cannot be two or more infinite, perfect beings is because they would have to differ from each other in some way, and to differ means each being must lack something that the others have; however, if they lack something, they are not infinite, perfect beings; therefore, there can be only one infinite, perfect being.
Many of Dake’s statements regarding the Trinity are similar to classic Trinitarian statements, but his view is not the same as the historic Christian view; if it were the same, he certainly would not have called the historic Christian view foolish and unscriptural.
Dake’s misunderstanding of God’s nature also results in a problematic view of Jesus’ nature. He teaches, for example, that Jesus became the Son of God at His incarnation 34 (a view held by Jehovah’s Witnesses known as adoptionism) and that Jesus became the Messiah at His baptism 35 (see, however, Luke 2:11 and Matt. 2:4). These views have been rejected by the majority of the church throughout history. His most troubling views, however, relate to Jesus’ incarnation and resurrection.
Dake argues, as noted above, that before the Incarnation, the Son (Jesus) had a spirit body as did the Father and the Spirit; however, he says that when Jesus came to earth, He exchanged His spirit body for a human body: “He laid aside His God body to take a human body, His immortality in body to become mortal.” 36 Jesus’ resurrection, in Dake’s view, was a return to a spiritual body, the same kind of body that believers will receive at their resurrection. Dake claimed, “Even resurrected bodies of flesh-and-bone saints are called ‘spiritual’ (1Cor. 15:44), so spiritual bodies are of materialized, spiritualized substance — something we know nothing about, as far as experience is concerned, at the present time.” 37 This type of spiritualized body, he argues, enabled Jesus (as it will us) to go through doors (John 20:26), appear and disappear at will (Luke 24:31), and change form (Mark 16:12).
There are several reasons to reject Dake’s view that man’s resurrected body will not be physical (i.e., material). First, Scripture teaches that Jesus’ resurrected body was the same physical body that went into the grave. Jesus declared to the Jews, for example, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (John 2:19 NASB, emphasis added). John explained, “He was speaking of the temple of His body” (v. 21). In other words, the body that came out of the grave was the same one that went in.
Second, according to Peter, David foresaw that Jesus’ body would not see decay in the grave (Acts 2:30–31; cf. Ps. 16:10). There would be no reason for God to preserve Jesus’ physical body if it was going to be exchanged for a different, spiritual body.
Third, many of Jesus’ post resurrection appearances in the Gospels emphasize the physical nature of His resurrected body: it had flesh and bones (Luke 24:39); it had the crucifixion wounds (John 20:27); it ate food (Luke 24:41–43), and it was physically recognized and touched by humans (Matt.28:9; Luke 24:39; John 20:17, 27).38 The Gospels attest that Jesus’ body that arose and appeared to the disciples and other witnesses was the same physical body that was crucified.39
Dake recognizes the strong biblical support that Jesus’ resurrected body was (and is) physical flesh and bone. He vigorously argues, however, based on his view of the “spiritual body” in 1 Corinthians15, that Jesus’ body was “materialized, spiritualized substance.” A “materialized, spiritualized substance,” however, is a contradiction in terms; moreover, the phrase “spirit body,” as defined by Dake, is the same as saying “immaterial material,” which also is a contradiction in terms. A thing is either material or immaterial — there is no middle ground.
JESUS’ NATURE WHILE ON EARTH
Paul says that Jesus “emptied himself, taking the form of a bond-servant…being made in the likeness of men” (Phil.2:7 NASB). This is known as the kenosis passage, which comes from a Greek verb that means “to empty.” The question is, what does “emptied himself” mean, and of what did Jesus empty himself while on earth?
Rhodes explains, “Paul’s statement…involves three basic issues: the veiling of [Christ’s] preincarnate glory, a voluntary nonuse of some of his divine attributes, and the condescension involved in taking on the likeness of men.” 40 Jesus “emptied himself” by voluntarily limiting the use of some of His divine attributes while on earth, but at no time did He cease to possess them.
Dake argues, however, that Jesus did not possess His divine attributes while on earth. He explains, “The limitations of Christ in knowledge and wisdom cannot be explained and harmonized with the fact that Christ had omniscience [unlimited knowledge]. His limitations in power and His powerlessness to act and do things in Himself cannot be harmonized with the fact that He had his original attribute of omnipotence [unlimited power]…. Christ’s emptying Himself in reality includes the laying aside of His attributes and powers or at least limitations of them in becoming man.” 41 Dake says that Jesus “could not have retained immutability.” 42 Finally, Dake states that Jesus became unequal with God: “If He had not laid aside His equality as God, then He could not have been unequal with God as manifested in the days of his flesh.” 43
There are a number of problems with Dake’s view. First, the fact that Jesus did not know or do something does not mean that He could not know or do it. A person can choose not to open a door to see who is knocking, but that does not mean that person lacks the power to do so. In several statements, Dake seems to leave room for the view that Jesus merely chose not to use His divine attributes; but this view requires that Jesus possessed His divine attributes, which is inconsistent with Dake’s many arguments that He did not possess them.
Second, without His divine attributes, Jesus cannot be God. This is because God is a perfectly simple being, that is, He is not composed of parts, which means His attributes and His nature are one and the same. God doesn’t just have the attribute of omnipotence, for example, He is omnipotence. In other words, God minus even one of His attributes is not God. God’s nature, moreover, is immutable (unchangeable), which means He cannot change and become different than He is; for example, God cannot change from being unlimited in power to being limited in power. It is also illogical to say, as Dake does, that Jesus changed from being immutable (unchangeable) to being mutable (changeable).
Finally, to say that Jesus laid aside “His equality as God” goes against Jesus’ claims to be (equal with) God and instead agrees with the Pharisees who said that Jesus, being a man, was falsely making Himself to be God (John 10:30–33).
In the incarnation (when Christ “became” human), Christ’s nature did not change from divine to human; rather, the second person of the Trinity took on a human nature in addition to His divine nature. Jesus Christ, the God-Man, possesses two separate and distinct natures in His one person. This doctrine was spelled out at the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). The incarnation, therefore, did not require Jesus to give up His divine nature or attributes. Any limitations He had can be ascribed either to His human nature (e.g., His physical body could not be present everywhere at once) or to His choice not to exercise certain attributes of His divine nature, which He fully possessed even while on earth.
Dake’s view that Jesus retained His divine nature, but gave up the very attributes that make that nature divine is contradictory. It reveals a misunderstanding of the divine nature and compromises the very divinity of Jesus, in which he claims to believe.
SALVATION AND WORKS
Dake’s view of salvation is another problematic area. On one hand, he states that salvation is by grace and not by works: “Eternal life is a free gift….Men merit hell, but not eternal life. Jesus Christ alone procured it and gives it freely to all who believe.” 44 He also says it is by faith alone and not works: “The law of works cannot pardon….Faith alone in Christ will pardon and cancel the death penalty.” 45
On the other hand, he flatly denies that grace alone is sufficient for salvation: “It is true that grace cannot be…mixed with the law of works, but this does not prove that there are no conditions men must meet in order to get the benefits of grace. Not one scripture teaches unconditional grace.” 46 Dake asserts, “Grace cannot excuse and ignore the failure of saved man to meet the many conditions of salvation.” 47 He lists, for example, “two things [that are] necessary for one to be saved from all sin and only two,” 48 “3 things men must do and continue in to receive eternal life,” 49 “7 conditions of eternal salvation,” 50 and “23 conditions of eternal life.” 51 In one comment, he says, “There are 1,050 commands in the N.T. for the Christian to obey….If obeyed, they will bring rich rewards here and forever; if disobeyed they will bring condemnation and eternal punishment.” 52
In Dake’s view, grace can set aside condemnation only if one remains free from sin. In a section listing “30 things grace cannot do,” he asserts, “The modern fallacy that judicial forgiveness covers ALL sins, past, present, and future; that God does not impute sins of believers to them; and that God never condemns a saved man for any sins committed, but charges them to the Lord Jesus Christ, is one of the most unscriptural and demon-inspired theories in any church.” 53
According to Dake, justification, the initial act of God by which He declares a believing sinner righteous, is maintained by obeying certain conditions and by not sinning: “every act of obedience is an act of faith and works combined to maintain justification before God.” 54 He states elsewhere that a believer who sins can lose his salvation and again be condemned: “A man forgiven of past sins must quit sin. If he commits the same sins again after conversion he will be charged with them again. They must be properly confessed and forgiven again or he will pay the death penalty for the new crimes.” 55
Dake fails to clearly and consistently teach that salvation (justification) is by grace alonethrough faith alone apart from works — two of the central doctrines of the Protestant Reformation. He states that salvation is by grace through faith, but he also teaches that obedience and confession of sin are necessary to receive and maintain justification. This is a confused gospel of grace plus works. Scripture, however, teaches that the only condition a person must meet to receive and keep eternal life (salvation) is to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 16:31; cf. John 3:18; 20:31; Eph. 2:8). It also teaches that a believer does not lose eternal life and fall back into condemnation when he or she sins (John 3:18; 5:24; Rom.8:1–4,33–39).
Dake’s literal interpretation of passages such as Isaiah 53:5, John 14:14, and 3 John 2 results in the view that Jesus bore our sickness as well as our sin in the atonement; therefore, physical healing can be appropriated now by faith the same as forgiveness. He states,
“Everyone can get healed now — right now by faith — as much as he can be forgiven of sins now. The reason all are not healed is because they do not believe this truth and accept it as they do forgiveness of sins.…Both forgiveness and healing were atoned for on the cross, but they are appropriated individually by faith when one meets the necessary conditions of repentance and faith in the atonement. All Hell cannot rob him of either blessing if one refuses to permit demon forces to defeat him.” 56
The problem with equating physical sickness with sin in the atonement is that if a person does not have enough faith to be healed, then that person has no assurance that he or she has enough faith to be saved. Hank Hanegraaff points out, “If both healing and salvation are included in [the atonement], they must be accessed in the same way. And if one does not have enough faith to make oneself well, it follows that he cannot have enough faith to be saved. Therefore those who die physically due to lack of faith must also wind up in hell for the same reason.” 57
In Dake’s view, the failure to be healed reflects willful unbelief and disobedience to the laws of God and nature. 58 He even calls sickness sin: “It becomes sinful to bear in our bodies those things that Christ has already borne for us.” 59 This view is not only unbiblical, it adds guilt to a person who is already suffering from an illness or disease. One wonders if Dake believed that his own inability to be healed from Parkinson’s disease, which eventually took his life, was a sin due to unbelief.
Dake argues that to deny his view results in the absurd conclusion that God wants us to be sick: “Shall we say that it is God’s will for us to live in sickly and diseased bodies in preference to clean and healthy ones? 60 This is a false dilemma. It is not the case that either God heals sickness now or He prefers sickness to health; there is a third option: God will defeat sickness and disease in the future. Paul, in fact, stated that the whole world is waiting for the full and final redemption from the effects of the fall, which includes sickness and disease (Rom. 8:18–25).
Dake’s recurring theme of guaranteed health by positive confession of faith is paralleled by his theme of guaranteed prosperity. 61 These are standard doctrines among Word-Faith teachers and can devastate a person’s health, finances, and faith if followed.