In his book, The Doctrine of the Trinity, Christianity’s Self-Inflicted Wound, it is apparent that Anthony Buzzard was working from a false presupposition regarding the question of a pre-human existence for the Son of God. He made it plain that any form of literal preexistence is totally incompatible with the biblical belief that Jesus was 100% human, that He only possessed those ontological characteristics which are common to all humans and nothing more. On page 184, under the heading, “Problems with the Notion of Literal Preexistence,” Mr. Buzzard states the following:
“The very commonly held idea that Jesus was alive before His conception raises a number of questions about his nature. Is it possible to be a human being in any meaningful sense if one does not originate in the womb of one’s mother? A number of leading scholars have recently thought not. ‘We can have the humanity [of Christ] without preexistence and we can have the preexistence without humanity. There is absolutely no way of having both.’ Angels belong in a category different from human beings precisely because of their origin outside of the system of human procreation. If the Son of God was really a being who changed himself (or was changed by God) in order to enter the human race through Mary, he clearly belongs to a category of being vastly different from the rest of humanity.”
Mr. Buzzard first asks the question, “Is it possible to be a human being in any meaningful sense if one does not originate in the womb of one’s mother?” He then answered the question in the negative by quoting John Knox, and then concluded that any real preexistence necessarily means “he clearly belongs to a category of being vastly different from the rest of humanity.” The bottom line, according to Mr. Buzzard, is that one cannot be completely human unless one originates in the womb of a woman. But why did he frame his question in a way that restricts his criteria for being human to only the mother and not also to a human father?
It is abundantly clear from Scripture that Jesus was a human person just like any other human person in his ontological nature. “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect,” (Heb. 2:17 ESV). The Trinitarian concept of hypostatic union of two natures is clearly wrong and raises all kind of problems regarding Jesus’ temptation by the devil and how a fully divine person can die. Jesus only possessed the nature, substance, and life force that is common to all mankind and nothing more. In this sense, we agree with Biblical Unitarians completely regarding the ontological nature of Jesus. He was a Man, period. All of His miracles were done by God through Him, God dwelling in Him by His Spirit.
Mr. Buzzard’s error is in conflating origin with ontological nature. It is demonstrably false to claim that the human ontological nature (what Jesus was) can only come about if one originates in the womb. Jesus’ human origin was completely unique because Mary was a virgin and there was no male involved in the procreation. Many Unitarians deny the virgin birth (including the ancient Ebionites and ancient gnostic groups such as the Marcionites). These hold that Jesus was completely human but take this one step further by denying the virgin birth, in part on the very same grounds that Mr. Buzzard denies preexistence. A hypothetical Ebionite or Marcionite engaging Mr. Buzzard’s reasoning might frame his question like this: “Is it possible to be a human being in any meaningful sense if one’s human father does not implant his sperm into the womb of his human mother?” One could easily argue against the virgin birth by simply saying that humanity is fully dependent upon the union of sperm and egg from both human parents. The fact is Mr. Buzzard’s question was framed in such a way as allow his view but disallow both Trinitarianism and the form of Unitarianism which denies the virgin birth. His question is constructed specifically to get the response he seeks. But the fallacy becomes exceedingly apparent, not only from the fact that Jesus had no human father, but also when we survey the human origins of Adam, Eve, and Seth, all of whom had completely different kinds of origin. Adam was created out of dirt but made alive by the breath of God. No other human has such an origin. Eve was created by God out of Adam’s rib. No other human being has this kind of origin. Seth was begotten by normal human procreation, different from both his father and his mother. Adam, Eve, Seth, and Jesus each had radically different kinds of human origin, yet we acknowledge all as being equally human.
The first Adam was an absolutely unique miracle, first formed by God from the elements of this earth, created as an adult male. God breathed out from within Himself “the breath of life” into Adam’s lungs and Adam instantly became a living human being. Where did his consciousness and self-awareness come from? Adam was never a fetus, had no birth from a woman, experienced no infancy, no growing or maturing process, and no learning of language. That breath of life out from God’s own Person not only animated his body but also gave his brain consciousness, a personality, and the ability to communicate in a language he had not learned. Eve was created out of Adam’s rib, as an adult woman, also with the ability to communicate in human language without learning it. This ability certainly did not come from Adam’s rib. Why then is it impossible with God to transform His only-begotten Son into the second Adam consisting of a human body formed from Mary’s flesh (like Eve was formed from Adam’s flesh), with His own unique “breath of life” being the preexisting consciousness of Logos, Wisdom, the Messenger of Yahweh, breathed into that flesh fetus in Mary’s womb? Hebrews 10:5 states: “Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me‘” (Heb. 10:5 ESV)? The simplest reading of this statement presupposes a preexistence without humanity, just as Paul’s statement about the Son in Philippians 2:7, ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, literally, “In the likeness of men becoming,” or his statement in Hebrews 2:17, κατὰ πάντα τοῖς ἀδελφοῖς ὁμοιωθῆναι literally, “according to all things the brothers to become like.” Note that the body was prepared for Him when He “came into the world.” The second Adam was a completely unique miracle just as the first Adam. The concept of a preexisting, conscious, aware Son of God as pure “Spirit” (lit. “Breath”) of the God “kind” being completely transformed into a human person, taking his flesh from Mary, His human life from God, with the consciousness of Logos, is no harder for God than creating the first Adam. One might ask, “Why did the second Adam need to come from a woman at all?” There are two reasons that I can think of. The first is that his full humanity would be in question if God simply created another Adam from dust as the human body of His Son. The second is that it was necessary to fulfill the promises, first that the “seed of the woman” would defeat Satan (Gen. 3:15), and that the Christ would be both Abraham’s seed and David’s seed, yet He also must be the “only-begotten of the Father.” The fact is, if God did not literally “father” the Son as coming out from His own person prior to His becoming human, but merely created a human and then adopted Him, He is not really the “Son of God” in the way that Scripture clearly presents Him, as being the “only-begotten of the Father,” and “You are My Son, today I have begotten You.”
Paul Himself, when comparing the resurrection of the body to both Adam and Christ, made a similar comparison: “So also it is written, ‘The first man, Adam, became a living soul.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.” (1 Cor. 15:45-47 NASB).
In his book, Mr. Buzzard continued with several pages attempting to counter the many statements in John’s Gospel which refer to the Son as having come down from heaven by making them all metaphorical or allegorical. No doubt he would respond to the above text also with the claim that the second Adam’s coming “from heaven” is a metaphor for his supernatural birth. Yet if God’s Son had no preexistence, then He too was “from the earth, earthy” exactly as Adam was. Likewise, Adam’s origin was equally supernatural, a miracle from heaven. Adam also was “from heaven” if this is a metaphor for merely a divine miracle. Assuming the Biblical Unitarian model, in what way was Paul making a sharp distinction between Adam and Christ if both were literally from the earth (fully human) and both were only “from heaven” metaphorically as a heavenly miracle? Adam’s creation from dirt, with no human parents at all, seems much more of a miracle that Jesus’ birth from one human parent. One might argue that in the context Paul’s statement about the second Adam being “from heaven” was metaphorically referring to Christ’s resurrection only and not to His birth. But in what way did Jesus come “from heaven” in His resurrection? It is clear that in the contrasting statement, Paul was speaking about Adam’s origin from dirt. Consequently, his statement about Christ having come from heaven is juxtaposed and should be the basis for the contrast. Which is the greater miracle (from heaven): to create a man out of dust and breathe life into Him, or to raise someone from the dead less than three days after their death? Unless Paul meant that the Person of the second Adam literally came out from heaven (ἐξ οὐρανοῦ) in some way that was not also true of the first Adam, his contrasting statements become nonsense.
Furthermore, after all of the many statements in John’s Gospel affirming that the Son came down from heaven, John then quoted Jesus Himself. John made it abundantly clear that the Son of God did indeed literally come down from heaven and that this (and all of the other similar statements in John’s Gospel) were not metaphors, allegories, or figures of speech but were all intended to be understood literally.
John 16:27-30 (NKJV) 27 “for the Father Himself loves you, because you have loved Me, and have believed that I came forth from God. 28 I came forth from the Father and have come into the world. Again, I leave the world and go to the Father.” 29 His disciples said to Him, “See, now You are speaking plainly, and using no figure of speech! 30 “Now we are sure that You know all things, and have no need that anyone should question You. By this we believe that You came forth from God.”
There are two reasons why this passage proves the Son’s preexistence in heaven beside the Father:
1. Jesus placed His going out of the world and ascending to the Father in juxtaposition to His prior coming forth from the Father into the world. “I came forth from [παρὰ – from beside] the Father” is juxtaposed with I “go to the Father.” Likewise, “came into the world” is juxtaposed with “leave the world.” He was literally leaving this world and going back to the Father’s side, which means that He literally came from the Father’s side in heaven in order to come into the world. The clause ἐξῆλθον παρὰ τοῦ πατρὸς is literally translated “I came forth from beside the Father,” indicating location. While a similar single statement can sometimes be metaphorical, when such things are placed in juxtaposition, they must have contrasting yet comparable meanings. Either both are metaphors, or both are literal. The juxtaposition does not allow for one to be literal and the other a metaphor because no legitimate comparison can be made. Exactly the same situation occurs in John 3:13, which says, “No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven.” Again, the juxtaposition of “ascended” with “descended” and the juxtaposition of “into heaven” with “from heaven” absolutely requires that both be treated equally as concepts that are comparable by contrast. If in John 16:27-30 leaving the world and going back to the Father means leaving earth and arriving in the presence of God in heaven (as it clearly does), then His coming forth from beside the Father and coming into the world means precisely the reverse in comparable and compatible terminology and concepts.
2. The disciples understood that Jesus was speaking literally and plainly. He was not using metaphorical or allegorical language. On this basis they said that they believed that He came forth from God. This means that they believed that He literally came down from heaven just as He stated in John 6:38, “For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (NASB). The book of John is full of preexistence language, especially concerning His coming down from heaven. The statement in John 16:27-30 is simply the final word in John’s Gospel on this theme. It needs no elaborate explanations about alleged Jewish paradigms through which one must view John’s Gospel. Such statements simply require common sense and belief, accepting it on Jesus’ own word! Likewise, Paul’s statement about the second Adam, ὁ δεύτερος ἄνθρωπος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ literally, “the second [Adam is] out from heaven” means the same thing as the statements about Logos in John’s prologue, John 3:13, John 6:38,62; John 8:56-58; John 16:27-30 & John 17:5.
It is clear that Mr. Buzzard is assuming what he is trying to prove. He begins with the presupposition that a preexistence is not possible, and then supports his claim with non-sequiturs. The fact is, the Bible tells us plainly in Philippians 2 of the Son’s pre-human existence “in the form of God” and “equal with God,” but having contemplated His position and status, He chose to “empty Himself,” and then ἐν ὁμοιώματι ἀνθρώπων γενόμενος, literally, “in the likeness of men becoming.” The word γενόμενος is the same verb used in John 1:14, “and Logos became flesh.” Both of these statements indicate a literal preexistence. Logos was clearly not “flesh” before He “became flesh.” The Son of God “became in the likeness of men” after He “emptied Himself,” meaning He was not “in the likeness of men” before He “emptied Himself” while He was still “in the form of God” and “equal with God.” The little verb “became” requires a transformation of the subject when it takes an object.
This raises the question of whether it is even possible for something with one kind of concrete nature to be completely transformed into something with a completely different concrete nature. Of course it is possible with God, just as water became wine, and stones become bread. Mr. Buzzard has made a point of insisting that Jesus “origin” occurred in the womb of Mary, by which He means His conscious self, since nothing and no one can have more than one “origin.” Yet, did the wine that originated at the wedding in Cana have one or two origins? It had one origin as “wine,” but a previous origin as water at the time of creation. It is right and logical to say that the wine had two distinct origins? Yes indeed. The “wine” had an origin at the time of the miracle, but it also had a preexistence as water for four-thousand years before with an origin at the time of creation. Consequently, a complete transformation in ontological nature, two distinct origins, that is, preexistence in a different form with a completely different ontological nature, is not only hypothetically possible, but according to Scripture God has a record of doing just that. Maybe it is no coincidence that John alone recorded the miracle of the water being completely transformed into wine immediately after his prologue where he wrote, “and Logos became flesh.”
In the past Mr. Buzzard has used the example of the transformation of water to wine and stones to bread in order to support his theory that Logos in John’s prologue was just an abstract “Plan” in the mind of God, which then “became flesh” in the person of Jesus. Yet these two examples do not support his claim that an ABSTRACT concept or thought which has no real existence, being only in God’s imagination with no CONCRETE nature at all, can “become flesh.” Both examples take something with a real existence, with a concrete essence and makeup, and indicate a transformation of this real concrete nature into something that is equally real, concrete, and literally existing. It is therefore apparent that Mr. Buzzard’s denial of the possibility of the Son’s preexistence is based on faulty presuppositions, flawed reasoning, and misapplication of Scripture.
The biggest obstacle for the Biblical Unitarians (I have spoken to) to accepting the idea of a preexisting Son of God being completely transformed into Son of Man is this: It is difficult, perhaps impossible, to conceive of such a transformation, yet it remains the same person with the same consciousness and self-awareness. My response to this perceived problem is to ask the following question: How is it possible for Abraham, who died long ago, whose brain has turned to dust, who has no existence or continuation of his consciousness or personhood, to become exactly the same person in the resurrection with the same memories and self-awareness he had before? Just as we cannot understand exactly how this can occur, yet we accept it on faith because God has promised Abraham, neither can we understand how God’s breathing into a body of dust can instantly convert that dust into a living and self-aware adult with the ability to reason and communicate in language. If we do not believe in Plato’s immortality of the soul, that the dead are conscious ghosts so that there is allegedly a continuous consciousness from life, through death, and into resurrection, then the same problem imagined for this transformation of Son of God to Son of Man also exists for our belief in the resurrection. We believe in the resurrection because God has promised it, and He requires faith in what is promised, though it is yet unseen. Why then is it impossible to believe a literal understanding of Philippians 2:5-8 or that the Logos (as the preexisting divine Son of God) “became flesh and dwelled among us?”
 Buzzard, quoting John Knox, The Humanity and Divinity of Jesus (Cambridge University Press, 1967), 106
 John 2:9
 Matt. 4:3