Potuit Non Peccare or Non Potuit Peccare: Evangelicals, Hermeneutics and the Impeccability Debate

Michael McGhee Canham | May 21, 2010

The debate over whether Christ was not able to sin or able not to sin results from Scripture’s failure to address the issue directly. Some advocate that He was peccable (able not to sin), others that He was not able to sin (impeccable). Five hermeneutical issues relate to the resolving of this debate: what to do about the silence of Scripture, the argument from theological implications, the meaning of theological terms such as “ability” and “humanity,” the role of theological presuppositions in exegesis, and an appeal to other relevant theological models. The role of theological suppositions includes a consideration of the meanings of perizo (“I tempt, test”) in connection with Christ and of choris hamartias (“without sin”) in Heb 4:15. Relevant theological models to be consulted include the hypostatic union of the two natures in Christ, the theological concept of “antinomy,” and the kenosis of Christ. The preferred solution to the debate is that Christ in His incarnation was both peccable and impeccable, but in His kenosis His peccability limited His impeccability.

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