Another Peter Ruckman view that should raise eyebrows is his affirmations that Christ was capable of sinning (otherwise known as peccability). We are not alleging that Ruckman is the originator of this view, as Charles Hodge (1797-1878), famous for his Systematic Theology, expressed similar views.
Allow Ruckman to present his views in his own words:
Jesus was so constituted that He could have sinned if He desired, for He was a perfect man and He was not a God and man mixture; He was God and man. Therefore, Jesus’ victory was absolute and complete for He did not once yield to sin, although He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin,” Hebrews 4:15. (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, Vol. 7, p. 17)
The Devil never had any problem taking down any descendent of Adam and Eve (Rom. 3:23, 5:12), but he had a problem with Jesus Christ. Why was that? Because Jesus Christ had no human father from whom to inherit a sin nature. There was no propensity in Jesus Christ to sin.
Don’t misunderstand me: the temptations were real temptations. Those who teach the so-called “impeccability of Christ”—that Jesus could not have sinned—don’t know about what they are talking. The weakness of Christ’s earthly body certainly made a temptation like turning the stones into bread appealing. But Jesus was in the same position Adam was before the Fall. With no “original sin,” He was completely free to turn down sin. So when it comes to the “impeccability of Christ,” I teach exactly what the Scriptures say about the matter: Christ did not sin—in thought, word, or deed. (Ruckman, Peter. The Book of Mark. Pensacola: BB Bookstore, 2017, pp. 23-24. Emphasis ours.)
When the subject of the sinlessness of Christ is brought up, the apostate Fundamentalists and Conservatives all say it was impossible for Jesus to sin.
(Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. January 2011, p. 16)
Verses 1-10 [Mat. 4] deals with the question of the peccability of Christ; i.e., could Jesus Christ have sinned? Every apostate Fundamentalist would say He could not have sinned, under any condition. If that were so, why would Satan tempt Christ if he did not believe there was a chance that he could have succeeded in getting Jesus to rebel against God? When a Conservative or Fundamentalist takes the position that Christ was impeccable (unable to sin), he is claiming to be smarter than the most brilliant being in the universe outside of God Himself (see Ezek. 28:3). (Ruckman Reference Bible. 1st edition, Matt. 4:1 pp. 1239-1240)
In the last quote, regarding the peccability of Christ, Ruckman bases it on his own assumption of the Devil’s reasoning, not what the Scripture teaches. Think about that—the Devil’s reasoning! Also the Devil is not omniscient, and he surely doesn’t have any special knowledge about Christ regarding this that we do not have access to. We should go by Scriptural reasoning, not the reasoning of whom Ruckman calls “the most brilliant being in the universe outside of God Himself.”
In the second quote, Ruckman properly noted that Christ did not inherit a sin nature. He also teaches this elsewhere:
We have learned that Jesus was born without original sin in the sense of the Adamic nature, that is, without a sin nature… (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, Vol. 7, p. 2)
However, how could Christ even be capable of sinning if He did not even possess a sin nature?
Ultimately what should settle a theological matter is the plain teaching of the Word of God. There are two passages that shed light on the issue that nonetheless could appear to contradict each other:
Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.
James 1:13 Let no man say when he is tempted, I am tempted of God: for God cannot be tempted with evil, neither tempteth he any man:
As for Heb. 4:15, He was tempted and He suffered, but in a way we could never begin to comprehend. He “knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21), yet He was confronted with sin up close, which caused Him great agony.
There is no contradiction between James 1:13 and passages such as Heb. 4:15. The “tempted” of Heb. 4:15 is not even the same Greek word as the “tempted” of James 1:13, although they are synonymous. In Hebrews 4:15 it should be understood that he was subjected to temptation, in the sense of being presented with choices, both good and evil; but in the end, since God “cannot be tempted with evil” and could not be “drawn away of his own lust, and enticed,” Christ could not have deliberated or wrestled in his mind. Heb. 4:15 reveals that there was temptation in the sense of presentation, but James 1:13 reveals there could have been no deliberation.
For Christ to have been capable of committing sin, He would have had to possess a sin nature. Christ’s declaration that “the prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (Jn. 14:30) makes it clear that Christ did not have a fallen nature. If Christ was peccable on earth, what would impede him from being peccable in heaven? For Christ to somehow possess a fallen nature and be capable of sinning because of his humanity, would have been a violation of his moral character, as He was “holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners” (Heb. 7:26). “God cannot be tempted with evil” (James 1:13) and “it was impossible for God to lie” (Heb. 6:18). Since Jesus is God, to teach that Christ could have sinned is to imply that he was not fully God, or that God could sin.
The doctrine of peccability is closely related to another questionable teaching of Ruckman in which he affirms that sin occurs at the debate stage even before committing the act:
A man doesn’t sin when he commits an act. Furthermore, a man doesn’t sin when he decides to commit the act. A man sins when he debates whether or not to commit the act after he knows whether it is good or evil.(Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. April 1992, p. 14)
Temptation enters at presentation and illumination, but once a man begins to debate, the sin has started. (Ruckman, Peter. Theological Studies, Vol. 20, p. 59)
Now when these apostates say Jesus Christ couldn’t have committed sin, what they actually mean is that He had no desire (i.e., “lust”) that could be appealed to in order to make the decision to commit the act. But as we have just seen, that is not where the problem lies. The problem lies at the debate state, and when it comes to that, Christ certainly could have sinned. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. January 2011, p. 7)
In the above quote, Ruckman makes up a problem where none exists, namely his bizarre teaching that sin occurs when one begins to debate, and that therefore Christ could have sinned, but chose not to. In the temptation in the wilderness, Christ would have experienced desire in the form of hunger. However, hunger is a natural desire that is not inherently sinful. What he had no desire to do would be to fulfill Satan’s suggestion to turn stones into bread. The hunger He sensed enabled Christ to experience temptation in a manner that He could relate to us. Ruckman goes on to bring up the case of Christ agonizing in the Garden of Gethsemane:
Don’t believe me? Look at Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane. He said, “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I WILL, but as THOU WILT” (Matt. 26:39). Do you see those two wills? There they are just as plain as a plate glass window with the pane knocked out: “I will”; “THOU wilt.”
Given that, what did Christ do? He surrendered to the Father’s will WITHOUT DEBATING IT. He said, “O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, THY WILL BE DONE” (Matt. 26:42). (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. January 2011, p. 7)
For Ruckman to use the case of Christ agonizing in the garden to prove that Christ surrendered to the Father’s will without debating it (because that would constitute sin according to Ruckman) seems odd. Our view is that the garden experience reveals to us His humanity in all the emotions He was experiencing in antipaction of the crucifixion and the forsaking of the Father as He took on the crushing weight of the sin of the world. Christ experienced natural desires, that absent from pleasing Satan or preventing His Father’s will, would not have been sinful in fulfilling. This would include the hunger He experienced in the wilderness and the agony He experienced in the garden of Gethsemane.
As we have documented previously, Ruckman believes correctly that Christ did not have a sin nature. However, he conveniently refuses to explain how Christ could be capable of sinning without even possessing a sin nature.
In the following quote, Ruckman seems to contradict himself as to whether Christ experienced a debate when he was tempted. Notice:
Christ had a choice, so there’s an issue up for debate. He recognizes two sides: He can get out or He can’t. He could choose one or the other—that’s the debate. Right there is where He shows He’s sinless. At that time, He could have chosen His own will if He wanted to have it more than the Father’s. Having illumination, He didn’t debate as to whether or not He should have chosen His own will: knowing what His Father wanted, He cut off any debate and chose to do what His Father wanted. (Ruckman, Peter. Bible Believers’ Bulletin. January 2011, p. 7)
Quoting Haldeman, Emery Bancroft in his Elemental Theology makes the following excellent observations regarding the impeccability of Christ:
This [impeccability of Christ] must be true, otherwise it would be setting up redemption on a basis of possible overthrow. The whole scheme of redemption predetermined in the counsel of God was, according to this theory, unsettled till after the temptation; during the temptation it was in the balance.
… The Scriptures give no warrant for the teaching that our Lord might have sinned. The illustration from Satan and Adam cannot come into court. Satan was a created angel. Adam was not the begotten Son of God, but a creation of God. Our Lord Jesus Christ was not a created angel. He was not a created man. He was begotten of God, from the seed of the woman, by and through the Holy Ghost. That which was begotten was not a person but a nature, a human nature. This human nature was holy. Scripture calls it “that holy thing.” It was in its quality the holiness of God. Since its quality was the holiness of God, there was no sin in it, and no possible tendency to sin. This holy, sinless, human nature could not have sinned without the consent of His unique Personality; that Personality would have to say: “I will” to sin. Since the personality of our Lord Jesus Christ is the Personality of God, it was impossible for that Personality to consent to sin. Since his personality could not consent to sin, it was impossible for Him in His human nature (seeing that human nature was inseparably joined to His personality) to have sinned. (Bancroft, Emery. Elemental Theology: Doctrinal and Conservative. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 3rd edition 1960, pp. 95-96)
Other recommended reading:
“The Impeccability of Christ” by John Walvoord https://bible.org/seriespage/7-impeccability-christ
Shedd, William. Dogmatic theology. Vol. II, New York: Scribner’s. 1888, pp. 330-349. https://archive.org/details/dogmatictheology02sheduoft/page/330