Francis Chan “Like God and Man All at Once”?

Francis Chan has been one of the most popular American evangelical figures of the past decade. He is the author of several influential books, was the pastor of a megachurch in Southern California, and has been featured in all sorts of evangelical media and at major conferences (including some controversial ones). Early this year he moved to Hong Kong, where he has been doing videos that hundreds of thousands of people watch on YouTube. In one of these, dated May 2, 2020, Chan made the following statement (starting about minute 4:00):

Jesus did not die on the cross so that you and I could live ordinary lives. He died so that my soul could be cleansed, so that my body could become completely clean, so that his Holy Spirit would enter into me. And just like I wouldn’t dare ever refer to Jesus as ‘just an ordinary guy,’ none of us would. Are you kidding me? He was a man and, somehow, he was God all at once. You can’t call him ordinary. But don’t you understand? That’s what he’s saying about us now! Like right now you’re looking at a person who is not just a person. Somehow God is in me and there is a sense in which I am like God and man all at once! His Spirit dwells inside of me. It makes no sense then if my life resembles a person who does not have the Holy Spirit in them.

A Lutheran pastor named Chris Rosebrough did a video criticizing Chan’s message. He introduced his critique video as follows: “Here is Francis Chan saying that he’s both God and man. Yes he actually says that.”

Well, to be precise, Chan said that there was a sense in which he was “like God and man all at once.” In context it was difficult to tell if like meant “similar to” or if it meant, like, Southern California surfer dude like. If the latter, which is possible (Chan did seem to say “like” fairly often), then Rosebrough is right. Even if Chan meant “similar to,” what Chan says does appear to cross the line. Note that he makes this statement after referring to Jesus as man and God and then saying, “That’s what he’s saying about us now!” On no reasonable construction of Chan’s statements in context is this true. God is certainly not saying about us the same thing that is true about Jesus being both God and man.

I don’t know if Chan has made similar statements in the past. My guess is that the context of this statement may be a move in the direction of Catholicism or Eastern Orthodoxy. At the beginning of the year, another video appeared on YouTube in which Chan expressed a newfound belief that the bread and wine in Communion become “the literal body and blood of Christ.” It is possible that in saying that he was “like God and man all at once,” Chan was attempting to express the concept of theosis or deification, a theological idea associated especially with the Orthodox Church. If so, though, he did not express it very well.

Perhaps at some point Chan will become aware that his statement appears highly problematic theologically and will offer a clarification or retraction. In any case, evangelicals have reason to be concerned about the direction Chan’s teaching seems to be headed.

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2 Responses to Francis Chan “Like God and Man All at Once”?

  1. Ed! Craft says:

    I think it’s possible – based on having watched the clip multiple times – that when he said “He was a man and somehow at once He was God all at once. You can’t call Him ordinary. Don’t you see that’s what He’s saying about us now?” He wasn’t really saying that we’re both God and man. His reference point for “that’s what He’s saying about us” is what he said right before that – “you can’t call Him ordinary.” And he went on to clarify that next. Chan didn’t say he *was* God, but that in a sense he is *like* God. To which point, we are.

    It’s like if I say “Bob and Phil got in an argument. Phil apologized. That’s what we should do.” I’m not saying we should get in arguments. I’m saying we should apologize. The point of reference is what was said immediately prior. It’s a point of semantics.

    Where I think Chan got it wrong was that Jesus was an “ordinary” guy when He walked the face of the earth – prior to the resurrection. Philippians 2:7 says He emptied Himself when He took the form of man. If He didn’t deprive Himself of His “God-hood” then why would Jesus say that it was the Father Who did the works (John 14:10)? If He didn’t empty Himself of His “true” divinity, then how could He have been tempted (Hebrews 4:15) when James 1:13 tells us that God cannot be tempted? Jesus walked the earth during His ministry as a man full of the Holy Spirit.

    I believe Chan is correct in saying that he’s not “just a person.” None of us are. We’re spirits having a human experience. We are spirits who live in a body and have a soul. And the born-again believer’s spirit has been recreated. I absolutely agree that having the Holy Spirit dwell within is not the same thing as being God. We’re not God and man at the same time. As the creation, we can’t take the position of the Creator.

    That being said, I don’t know where Chan is in his walk or where he’s generally headed theologically. Could he have been referencing his previous statement and that he believes we’re both God and man? Maybe. But I can’t say that based on the evidence we have right here. I’d have to know more.

  2. Marc Taylor says:

    Hello Ed,
    Can you please clarify paragraph 3 as to whether or not you believe the Lord Jesus was God while He was on the earth?


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