Some of my best-selling commentaries are those by William Barclay. I have customers who consistently tell me how much they enjoy his writing. I’ve commented before how most of those same customers are surprised when I tell them Barclay did not believe in the miracles of Jesus. At least not in a supernatural sense. But I didn’t realize that he also rejected the deity of Christ. I discovered this in reading his autobiography, William Barclay: A Spiritual Autobiography. Here’s how he puts it:
“So then for me the supreme truth of Christianity is that in Jesus I see God. When I see Jesus feeding the hungry, comforting the sorrowing, befriending men and women with whom no one else would have anything to do, I can say: ‘This is God.’
It is not that Jesus is God. Time and time again the Fourth Gospel speaks of God sending Jesus into the world. Time and time again we see Jesus praying to God. Time and time again we see Jesus unhesitatingly and unquestioningly and unconditionally accepting the will of God for himself. Nowhere does the New Testament identify Jesus and God. Jesus did not say: ‘He who has seen me has seen God.’ He said: ‘He who has seen me has seen the Father.’ These are attributes of God I do not see in Jesus. I do not see God’s omniscience in Jesus, for there are things which Jesus did not know. I do not see God’s omnipotence in Jesus for there are things which Jesus could not do. I do not see God’s omnipresence in Jesus, for in his days on earth Jesus could only be in one place at any given time, and once and for all revealed and demonstrated, the attitude of God to men, the attitude of God to me. In Jesus there is the full revelation of the mind and heart of God. And what a difference it means to know that God is like that!” (50, Emphasis his.)
I’m afraid I will have a host of customers who will be quite surprised to hear this. I shudder to think what they will do if I tell them he also believed in evolution and was “a convinced universalist.” (58) On top of that he wanted nothing to do with the penal substitutionary atonement. (51-58) The reason I suspect this reaction for some of my customers is because among those who love him most are some of my most conservative customers and who regularly chide other writers who espouse these same beliefs. I’m not surprised with the evolution, universalism or his views on the atonement but the denial of the deity of Christ was quite a surprise.