Friday, January 10, 2020

Parsing the Incarnation

A comment left on my EO post:

I think you need to strengthen your notion of hypostatic union.

I wasn't offering a detailed view of my position. I've explicated my position in other posts. 

1. The humanity that the Logos took from Mary is a real and perfect humanity.

i) Humanity includes both body and soul. He did receive his soul from Mary?

ii) No doubt his humanity is real. I'm not sure what is meant by "perfect". Does that mean morally perfect? If so, yes. 

Does that mean Jesus had to have 20/20 vision? No. His humanity could be "imperfect" in the sense of, say, having a congenital heart defect, or allergies. He didn't need to be a specimen of physical perfection. 

2. The whole point of the incarnation is HE who is God has truly become Immanuel- God with us as man.

Is that the whole point? That's not even the primary point. The Incarnation was a necessary condition for him to make penal substitution for the elect. A means to an end. 

3. For HE to be truly man, he must truly make his own that humanity that is common to the elect.

i) True, but it may be worth expatiating on that point. A standard way of putting it is that human beings share a common nature. Every human being is a property instance or exemplification of human nature.

ii) Another way of putting it is that God has a constitutive idea of what makes humans human, as well as a constitutive idea for unique individual. God creates individual human beings according to his complete idea for each, with its distinctiveness as well as commonality. 

iii) When, however, the Son assumes or unites himself to a concrete human nature, that doesn't have a domino effect on other human beings. It's a self-contained instance, separate from other human beings. The Incarnation doesn't transmit something to human beings in general. He is related to other human beings at a natural level, but he assumes a particularized nature. The action doesn't change other human beings, as if the Incarnation is a circuit which relays a current to human beings generally. 

4. Therefore, the Logos neither displaces the human mind of Christ (Apollinarianism) nor is he separated from the mind of Christ (Nestorianism). Rather- The Logos, the second person of the trinity, has taken and made, as HIS OWN a full and complete humanity. So the flesh of Christ is the flesh of the Logos. The soul of Christ is the soul of the Logos. The mind of Christ is the mind of the Logos- not in a fusion of mixing, but in a unity of person. “The Logos became flesh.” 

i) As a matter of terminology, I prefer in this context to say the "Son" rather than the "Logos"–inasmuch as the Logos is an economic term for the Son in his contingent role as the Creator of the world, whereas the Son is a divine title, connoting his eternal, ontological identity.

Since, moreover, I don't think the Son and Spirit derive their existence from the Father, I avoid the "first/second/third person(s)" of the Trinity rubric. I side with the Trinitarian paradigm of theologians like Warfield, Frame, and Helm. 

ii) If the word "flesh" comes from Jn 1:14, then we need to define it in Johannine terms. 

iii) "Person" or hypostasis is a term of art in Cyrillian Christology. 

iv) I don't know what is intended by statements like "the mind of Christ is the mind of the Logos". Is that an allusion to the an/enhypostatic union? But that raises familar questions about whether such a nature is a defective, incomplete human nature. To be truly human, Jesus must have a rational human soul. 

5. Therefore, the human mind of Christ always had the infused vision of his divinity- the divinity proper to the Logos.

It's not a two-way conduit. The human mind doesn't have access to the divine mind unless the divine mind shares something with the human mind. 

Of course, from the time his human mind was old enough to understand, Jesus knew he was God Incarnate. There's a dual-consciousness, and the individual was aware of his complex identity, even in his human consciousness. 

6. If the Logos can hold two natures in connection, but not union- then the he who died on the cross cannot save us- for he dies solely as man, not God-made-man, and he rises solely as God, nor God-made-man.

I never said it was a connection rather than a union. Mind you, "union" is a just a generic, neutral verbal placeholder. It doesn't do much theological work. That depends, not on a particular word, but a philosophical model. 

7. Therefore, for the sake of the elect, it is necessary to proclaim that Immanuel is truly God, having made his OWN that humanity conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary from the first instant of its conception.

"His own" in the sense of a unique property instance of human nature uniquely and permanently coupled with the divine Son. 

You’re perilously close to Paul of Samosata and Nestorius. Tread carefully. 

There's nothing adoptionist about my position. The human nature of Christ only exists in virtue of the Incarnation. As for modalism, unitarian philosopher Dale Tuggy accuses me of Tritheism (on his tendentious characterization). "Nestorian" is a term of abuse rarely defined with precision, and routinely used as a lazy intellectual shortcut. In other posts I've provided models to illustrate the asymmetrical relation between the divine and human natures. 

My primary frame of reference is NT Christology. Beyond that we're left with philosophical theology. I'm not obliged to confine myself to the conceptual resources of Cyril of Alexandria. The ongoing history of ideas has provided us with additional analogies we can use to refine Christology. It's necessary to do full justice to what the NT says about the person of Christ. If that generates some tensions with Cyrillian Christology, so be it. 


  1. IMHO declaring everyone to be heretical who doesn't hold to one particular nuance of what the Incarnation entails - and persecuting them to the point they leave the Empire - was a very unneccessary division.

    Perhaps my understanding is incomplete in that regard - surely the Imperial Church had good reasons for excommunicating other Christians on the basis of the subtle differences between Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Eutychianism and the orthodox Diophytism.

    Frankly the differences seem less pronounced (and with less purely Biblical backing either way) than say, Arminianism vs Calvinism.

    1. What is the difference between Eutychianism and Monophysitism?