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§ 142. The Orthodox Christology—Analysis and Criticism.
The first council of Nicaea had established the eternal preexistent Godhead of Christ. The symbol of the fourth ecumenical council relates to the incarnate Logos, as he walked upon earth and sits on the right hand of the Father, and it is directed against errors which agree with the Nicene Creed as opposed to Arianism, but put the Godhead of Christ in a false relation to his humanity. It substantially completes the orthodox Christology of the ancient Church; for the definitions added by the Monophysite and Monothelite controversies are few and comparatively unessential.
The same doctrine, in its main features, and almost in its very words (though with less definite reference to Nestorianism and Eutychianism), was adopted in the second part of the pseudo-Athanasian Creed,16281628 Comp. above § 132. and in the sixteenth century passed into all the confessions of the Protestant churches.16291629 Comp. my article cited in § 132 upon the Symbolum Quicunque. One of the briefest and clearest Protestant definitions of the person of Christ in the sense of the Chalcedonian formula, is the one in the Westminster (Presbyterian) Shorter Catechism: “Dominus Jesus Christus est electorum Dei Redemptor unicus, qui eternus Dei filius cum esset factus est homo; adeoque fuit, est eritque θεάνθρωποςe [in] naturis duabus distinctis persona unica in sempiternum or, as it is in English: ”The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and Man, in two distinct natures, and one person forever.” The Westminster Confession formulates this doctrine (ch. viii. sec 21) in very nearly the words of the Chalcedonian symbol: “The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures,—the Godhead and the manhood,—were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.” Like the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity, it is the common inheritance of Greek, Latin, and Evangelical Christendom; except that Protestantism, here as elsewhere, reserves the right of searching, to ever new depths, the inexhaustible stores of this mystery in the living Christ of the Gospels and the apostolic writings.16301630 The Lutheran Church has framed the doctrine of a threefold communicatio idiomatum, and included It in the Formula Concordiae. The controversy between the Lutheran theologians of Giessen and Tübingen, in the seventeenth century, concerning the κτῆσις(the possession), the ξρῆσις (the use), the κρύψις(the secret use), and the κένωσις(the entire abdication) of the divine attributes by the incarnate Logos, led to no definite results, and was swallowed up in the thirty years’ war. It has been resumed in modified form by modern German divines.
The person of Jesus Christ in the fulness of its theanthropic life cannot be exhaustively set forth by any formulas of human logic. Even the imperfect, finite personality of man has a mysterious background, that escapes the speculative comprehension; how much more then the perfect personality of Christ, in which the tremendous antitheses of Creator and creature, Infinite and finite, immutable, eternal Being and changing, temporal becoming, are harmoniously conjoined! The formulas of orthodoxy can neither beget the true faith, nor nourish it; they are not the bread and the water of life, but a standard for theological investigation and a rule of public teaching.16311631 Comp. Cunningham (Historical Theology, vol. i. p. 319): “The chief use now to be made of an examination of these controversies [the Eutychian and Nestorian] is not so much to guard us against errors [?] which may be pressed upon us, and into which we may be tempted to fall, but rather to aid us in forming clear and definite conceptions of the truths regarding the person of Christ, which all profess to believe; in securing precision and accuracy of language in explaining them, and especially to assist us in realizing them; in habitually regarding as great and actual realities the leading features of the constitution of Christ’s person, which the word of God unfolds to us.”
Such considerations suggest the true position and the just value of the Creed of Chalcedon, against both exaggeration and disparagement. That symbol does not aspire to comprehend the Christological mystery, but contents itself with setting forth the facts and establishing the boundaries of orthodox doctrine. It does not mean to preclude further theological discussion, but to guard against such erroneous conceptions as would mutilate either the divine or the human in Christ, or would place the two in a false relation. It is a light-house, to point out to the ship of Christological speculation the channel between Scylla and Charybdis, and to save it from stranding upon the reefs of Nestorian dyophysitism or of Eutychian monophysitism. It contents itself with settling, in clear outlines, the eternal result of the theanthropic process of incarnation, leaving the study of the process itself to scientific theology. The dogmatic letter of Leo, it is true, takes a step beyond this, towards a theological interpretation of the doctrine; but for this very reason it cannot have the same binding and normative force as the symbol itself.
As the Nicene doctrine of the Trinity stands midway between tritheism and Sabellianism, so the Chalcedonian formula strikes the true mean between Nestorianism and Eutychianism.
It accepts dyophysitism; and so far it unquestionably favored and satisfied the moderate Antiochian party rather than the Egyptian.16321632 Accordingly in Leo’s Epistola Dogmatica also, which was the basis of the Creed, Nestorius is not even mentioned, while Eutyches, on the other hand, is refuted at length. But in a later letter of Leo, addressed to the emperor, a.d.457 (Ep. 156, ed. Ballerini), he classes Nestorius and Eutyches together, as equally dangerous heretics. The Creed of Chalcedon is also regarded by Baur, Niedner, and Dorner as exhibiting a certain degree of preference for the Nestorian dyophysitism. But at the same time it teaches with equal distinctness, in opposition to consistent Nestorianism, the inseparable unity of the person of Christ.
The following are the leading ideas of this symbol:
1. A true incarnation of the Logos, or of the second person in the Godhead.16331633 Ἐνανθρώπησις Θεοῦ, ἐνσάρκωσις, incarnatio,—in distinction from a mere συνάφεια, conjunctio, or σχετική ἕνωσις, of the divine and human, by πρόσληψις(from, προσλαμβάνω), assumptio, of the human, and ἐνοίκησιςthe divine; and on the other hand, from a φυσικὴ ἕνωσιςor κρᾶσις, σύγχυσις ,or σάρκωσιςin the sense of transmutation. The diametrical opposite of the ἐνανθρώπησις Θεοῦis the heathen ἀποθέωσις ἀνθρώπου. The motive is the unfathomable love of God; the end, the redemption of the fallen race, and its reconciliation with God. This incarnation is neither a conversion of God into a man, nor a conversion of a man into God; neither a humanizing of the divine, nor a deification or apotheosis of the human; nor on the other hand is it a mere outward, transitory connection of the two factors; but an actual and abiding union of the two in one personal life.
It is primarily and pre-eminently a condescension and self-humiliation of the divine Logos to human nature, and at the same time a consequent assumption and exaltation of the human nature to inseparable and eternal communion with the divine person. The Logos assumes the body, soul, and spirit of man, and enters into all the circumstances and infirmities of human life on earth, with the single exception of sin, which indeed is not an essential or necessary element of humanity, but accidental to it. “The Lord of the universe,” as Leo puts the matter in his epistle, “took the form of a servant; the impassible God became a suffering man; the Immortal One submitted himself to the dominion of death; Majesty assumed into itself lowliness; Strength, weakness; Eternity, mortality.” The same, who is true God, is also true man, without either element being altered or annihilated by the other, or being degraded to a mere accident.
This mysterious union came to pass, in an incomprehensible way, through the power of the Holy Ghost, in the virgin womb of Mary. But whether the miraculous conception was only the beginning, or whether it at the same time completed the union, is not decided in the Creed of Chalcedon. According to his human nature at least Christ submitted himself to the laws of gradual development and moral conflict, without which, indeed, he could be no example at all for us.
2. The precise distinction between nature and person. Nature or substance is the totality of powers and qualities which constitute a being; person is the Ego, the self-conscious, self-asserting, and acting subject. There is no person without nature, but there may be nature without person (as in irrational beings).16341634 Compare the weighty dissertation of Boethius: De duabus naturis et una persona Christi, adversus Eutychen et Nestorium (Opera, ed. Basil., 1546, pp. 948-957), in which he defines natura (φύσιςor οὐσία), substantia (ὑπόστασις), and persona (πρόσωπον).”Natura,” he says, “est cujuslibet substantia specificata proprietas; persona vero rationabilis naturae individua subsistentia.” The Church doctrine distinguishes in the Holy Trinity three persons (though not in the ordinary human sense of the word) in one divine nature or substance which they have in common; in its Christology it teaches, conversely, two natures in one person (in the usual sense of person) which pervades both. Therefore it cannot be said: The Logos assumed a human person,16351635 Τέλειον ἄνθρωπον εἴληφε, as Theodore of Mopsuestia and the strict Nestorians expressed themselves. or united himself with a definite human individual: for then the God-Man would consist of two persons; but he took upon himself the human nature, which is common to all men; and therefore he redeemed not a particular man, but all men, as partakers of the same nature or substance.16361636 As Augustinesays: Deus Verbum non accepit personam hominis, sed naturam, et in eternam personam divinitatis accepit temporalem substantiam carnis. And again: “Deus naturam nostram, id est, animam rationalem carnemque hominis Christi suscepit.” (De corrept. et grat. §30, tom. x. f. 766.) Comp. Johannes Damascenus De fide orthod. iii. c. 6, II. The Anglican theologian, Richard Hooker, styled on account of his sober equipoise of intellect “the judicious Hooker,” sets forth this point of the Church doctrine as follows: “He took not angels but the seed of Abraham. It pleased not the Word or Wisdom of God to take to itself some one person amongst men, for then should that one have been advanced which was assumed, and no more, but Wisdom to the end she might save many built her house of that Nature which is common unto all, she made not this or that man her habitation, but dwelt in us. If the Son of God had taken to himself a man now made and already perfected, it would of necessity follow, that there are in Christ two persons, the one assuming, and the other assumed; whereas the Son of God did not assume a man’s person into his own, but a man’s nature to his own person; and therefore took semen, the seed of Abraham, the very first original and element of our nature, before it was come to have any personal human subsistence. The flesh and the conjunction of the flesh with God began both at one instant; his making and taking to himself our flesh was but one act, so that in Christ there is no personal subsistence but one, and that from everlasting. By taking only the nature of man he still continueth one person, and changeth but the manner of his subsisting, which was before in the glory of the Son of God, and is now in the habIt of our flesh.” (Ecclesiastical Polity, book v. ch. 52, in Keble’s edition of Hooker’s works, vol. ii. p. 286 f.) In just the same manner Anastasius Sinaita and John of Damascus express themselves. Comp. Dorner, ii. p. 183 ff. Hooker’s allusion to Heb. ii. 16 (οὐ γὰρ δήπου ἀγγέλων ἐπιλαμβάνεται, ἀλλὰ σπέρματοσ Ἁβραὰμ ἐπιλαμβάνεται), it may be remarked, rests upon a false interpretation, since ἐπιλαμβάνεσθαιdoes not refer to the incarnation, but signifies: to take hold of in order to help or redeem (as in Sirach, iv. 11). Comp. βοηθῆσαι, Heb. ii. 18. The personal Logos did not become an individual ἄνθρωπος, but σάρξ, flesh, which includes the whole of human nature, body, soul, and spirit. The personal self-conscious Ego resides in the Logos. But into this point we shall enter more fully below.
3. The result of the incarnation, that infinite act of divine love, is the God-Man. Not a (Nestorian) double being, with two persons; nor a compound (Apollinarian or Monophysite) middle being a tertium quid, neither divine nor human; but one person, who is both divine and human. Christ has a rational human soul, and—according to a definition afterwards added—a human will,16371637 The sixth ecumenical council, held at Constantinople, a.d.680, condemned monothelitism, and decided in favor of dyothelitism, or the doctrine of two wills (or volitions) in Christ, which are necessary to the ethical conflict and victory of his own life and to his office as an example for us. This council teaches (Mansi, tom xi. 637): Δύο φυσικὰς θελήσεις ἤτοι θελήματα ἐν αὐτῷ καὶ δύο φυσικὰς ἐνεργείας ἀδιαιρέτως, ἀτρέπτως , ἀμερίστως, ἀσυγχύτως … κηρύττομεν. These wills are not opposite to one another, but the human will is ever in harmony with the divine, and in all things obedient to it. “Not my will, but thine be done:” therein is found the distinction and the unity. and is therefore in the full sense of the word the Son of man; while yet at the same time he is the eternal Son of God in one person, with one undivided self-consciousness.
4. The duality of the natures. This was the element of truth in Nestorianism, and on this the council of Chalcedon laid chief stress, because this council was principally concerned with the condemnation of Eutychianism or monophysitism, as that of Ephesus (431) had been with the condemnation of Nestorianism, or abstract dyophysitism. Both views, indeed, admitted the distinction of the natures, but Eutychianism denied it after the act of the incarnation, and (like Apollinarianism) made Christ a middle being, an amalgam, as it were, of the two natures, or, more accurately, one nature in which the human element is absorbed and deified.
Against this it is affirmed by the Creed of Chalcedon, that even after the incarnation, and to all eternity, the distinction of the natures continues, without confusion or conversion,16381638 Ἀσυγχύτωςand ἀτρεπτως . yet, on the other hand, without separation or division,16391639 Ἀδιαιρέτως and ἀχωρίστως. so that the divine will remain ever divine, and the human, ever human,16401640 “Tenet,” says Leo, in his epistle to Flavian, “sine defectu proprietatem suam utraque natura, et sicut formam servi Dei formam non adimit, ita formam Dei servi forma non minuit .... Agit utraque cum alterius communione quod Proprium est; Verbo scilicet operante quod Verbi est, et came exsequente quod carnis est. Unum horum coruscat miraculis, aliud succumbIt injuriis.” and yet the two have continually one common life, and interpenetrate each other, like the persons of the Trinity.16411641 Here belongs John of Damascus’ doctrine of the περιχώρησις, Permeatio, circummeatio, circulatio, circumincessio, intercommunio, or reciprocal indwelling and pervasion, which has relation not merely to the Trinity but also to Christology. The verb περιχωρεῖν, is, so far as I know, first applied by Gregory of Nyasa (Contra Apollinarium) to the interpenetration and reciprocal pervasion of the two natures in Christ. On this rested also the doctrine of the exchange or communication of attributes, ἀντίδοσις , ἀντιμετάστασις, κοινωνία ἰδιωμάτων, communicatio idiomatum. The ἀντιμετάστασις τῶν ὀνομάτων, also ἀντιμεθίστασις, transmutatio proprietalum, transmutation of attributes, is, strictly speaking, not identical with ἀντίδοσις, but a deduction from it, and the rhetorical expression for it. The doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, however, awaited a full development much later, in the Lutheran church, where great subtlety was employed in perfecting it. This Lutheran doctrine has never found access into the Reformed church, and least of all the ubiquitarian hypothesis invented as a prop to consubstantiation; although a certain measure of truth lies at the basis of this, if it is apprehended dynamically, and not materially.
The continuance of the divine nature unaltered is involved in its unchangeableness, and was substantially conceded by all parties. The controversy, therefore, had reference only to the human nature.
And here the Scriptures are plainly not on the Eutychian side. The Christ of the Gospels by no means makes the impression of a person in whom the human nature had been absorbed, or extinguished, or even weakened by the divine; on the contrary, he appears from the nativity to the sepulchre as genuinely and truly human in the highest and fairest sense of the word. The body which he had of the substance of Mary, was born, grew, hungered and thirsted, slept and woke, suffered and died, and was buried, like any other human body. His rational soul felt joy and sorrow, thought, spoke, and acted after the manner of men. The only change which his human nature underwent, was its development to full manhood, mental and physical, in common with other men, according to the laws of growth, yet normally, without sin or inward schism; and its ennoblement and completion by its union with the divine.
5. The unity of the person.16421642 The ἕνωσις καθ ̓ ὑπόστασιν,or ἕνωσις ὑποστατική, unio hypostatica or personalis, unitas personae. The unio personalis is the status unionis, the result of the unitio or incarnatio. This was the element of truth in Eutychianism and the later monophysitism, which, however, they urged at the expense of the human factor. There is only one and the self-same Christ, one Lord, one Redeemer. There is an unity in the distinction, as well as a distinction in the unity. “The same who is true God,” says Leo, “is also true man, and in this unity there is no deceit; for in it the lowliness of man and the majesty of God perfectly pervade one another .... Because the two natures make only one person, we read on the one hand: ’The Son of man came down from heaven’ (John iii. 13), while yet the Son of God took flesh from the Virgin; and on the other: ’The Son of God was crucified and buried’ (1 Cor. ii. 8), while yet he suffered not in his Godhead as co-eternal and consubstantial with the Father, but in the weakness of human nature.”
Here again the Chalcedonian formula has a firm and clear basis in Scripture. In the gospel history this personal unity everywhere unmistakably appears. The self-consciousness of Christ is not divided. It is one and the self-same theanthropic subject that speaks, acts, and suffers, that rises from the dead, ascends to heaven, sits at the right hand of God, and shall come again in glory to judge the quick and the dead.
The divine and the human are as far from forming a double personality in Christ, as the soul and the body in man, or as the regenerate and the natural life in the believer. As the human personality consists of such a union of the material and the spiritual natures that the spirit is the ruling principle and personal centre: so does the person of Christ consist in such a union of the human and the divine natures that the divine nature is the seat of self-consciousness, and pervades and animates the human.16431643 Comp. the Athanasian Creed: “Sicut anima rationalis et caro unus est homo, ita Deus et homo unus est Christus.” In the same does Augustineexpress himself, and indeed this passage in the Creed, as well as several others, appears to be taken from him. Dr. Shedd (History of Christian Doctrine, i. p. 402) carries out vividly this analogy of the human personality with that of Christ, as follows: “This union of the two natures in one self-conscious Ego may be illustrated by reference to man’s personal constitution. An individual man is one person. But this one person consists of two natures,—a material nature and a mental nature. The personality, the self-consciousness, is the resultant of the union of the two. Neither one of itself makes the person.” [This is not quite exact. Personality lies in the reasonable soul, which can maintain its self-conscious existence without the body, even as in Christ His personality resides in the divine nature, as Dr. Shedd himself clearly states on p. 406.] “Both body and soul are requisite in order to a complete individuality. The two natures do not make two individuals. The material nature, taken by itself, is not the man; and the mental part, taken by itself, is not the man. But only the union of the two is. Yet in this intimate union of two such diverse substances as matter and mind, body and soul, there is not the slightest alteration of the properties of each substance or nature. The body of a man is as truly and purely material as a piece of granite; and the immortal mind of a man is as truly and purely spiritual and immaterial as the Godhead itself. Neither the material part nor the mental part, taken by itself, and in separation, constitutes the personality; otherwise every human individual would be two persons in juxtaposition. There is therefore a material ’nature,’ but no material ’person,’ and there is a mental ’nature,’ but no mental ’person.’ The person is the union of these two natures, and is not to be denominated either material or mental, but human. In like manner the person of Christ takes its denomination of theanthropic, or divine-human, neither from the divine nature alone, nor the hurnan nature alone, but from the union of both natures.”
I may refer also to the familiar ancient analogy of the fire and the iron.
6. The whole work of Christ is to be referred to his person, and not to be attributed to the one or the other nature exclusively. It is the one divine-human Christ, who wrought miracles of almighty power,—by virtue of the divine nature dwelling in him,—and who suffered and was buried,—according to his passible, human nature. The person was the subject, the human nature the seat and the sensorium, of the passion. It is by this hypostatical union of the divine and the human natures in all the stages of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ, that his work and his merits acquire an infinite and at the same time a genuinely human and exemplary significance for us. Because the God-Man suffered, his death is the reconciliation of the world with God; and because he suffered as Man, he has left us an example, that we should follow his steps.16441644 Here also the orthodox Protestant theology is quite in agreement with the old Catholic. We cite two examples from the two opposite wings of English Protestantism. The Episcopalian theologian, Richard Hooker, says, with evident reference to the above-quoted passage from the letter of Leo: “To Christ we ascribe both working of wonders and suffering of pains, we use concerning Him speeches as well of humility as of divine glory, but the one we apply unto that nature which He took of the Virgin Mary, the other to that which was in the beginning” (Eccles. Polity, book v. ch. 52, vol. ii. p, 291, Keble’s edition). The great Puritan theologian of the seventeenth century, John Owen, says, yet more explicitly: “In all that Christ did as the King, Priest, and Prophet of the church,—in all that He did and suffered, in all that He continueth to do for us, in or by virtue of whether nature soever it be done or wrought,—it is not to be considered as the act and work of this or that nature in Him alone, but it is the act and work of the whole person,—of Him that is both God and man in one person.” (Declaration of the Glorious mystery of the Person of Christ; chap. xviii., in Owen’s Works, vol. i. p. 234). Comp. also the admirable exposition of the article Passus est in Bishop Pearson’s Exposition of the Creed (ed. Dobson, p. 283 ff.).
7. The anhypostasia, impersonality, or, to speak more accurately, the enhypostasia, of the human nature of Christ. This is a difficult point, but a necessary link in the orthodox doctrine of the one God-Man; for otherwise we must have two persons in Christ, and, after the incarnation, a fourth person, and that a human, in the divine Trinity. The impersonality of Christ’s human nature, however, is not to be taken as absolute, but relative, as the following considerations will show.
The centre of personal life in the God-Man resides unquestionably in the Logos, who was from eternity the second person in the Godhead, and could not lose his personality. He united himself, as has been already observed, not with a human person, but with human nature. The divine nature is therefore the root and basis of the personality of Christ. Christ himself, moreover, always speaks and acts in the full consciousness of his divine origin and character; as having come from the Father, having been sent by him, and, even during his earthly life, living in heaven and in unbroken communion with the Father.16451645 The Logos is, according to the scholastic terminology of the later Greek theologians, especially John of Damascus, ἰδιοσύστατος, or ἰδιουπόστατος, i.e., per se subsistens, and ἰδιοπεριόριστος, proprio termino circumscriptus.“Haec et similia vocabula,” says the learned Petavius (Theol. Dogm. tom. iv. p. 430), “demonstrant hypostasin non aliena ope fultam ac sustentatam existere, sed per semet ipsam, ac proprio termino definitam.” Schleiermacher’s Christology therefore, on this point, forms the direct opposite, of the Chalcedonian; it makes the man Jesus the bearer of the personality, that is, transfers the proper centre of gravity in the personality to the human individuality of Christ, and views the divine nature as the supreme revelation of God in Him, as an impersonal principle, as a vital power. In this view the proper idea of the incarnation is lost. The same thing is true of the Christology of Hase, Keim, Beyschlag (and R. Rothe). And the human nature of Christ had no independent personality of its own, besides the divine; it had no existence at all before the incarnation, but began with this act, and was so incorporated with the preexistent Logos-personality as to find in this alone its own full self-consciousness, and to be permeated and controlled by it in every stage of its development. But the human nature forms a necessary element in the divine personality, and in this sense we may say with the older Protestant theologians, that Christ is a persona σύνθετος, which was divine and human at once.16461646 The correct Greek expression is, therefore, not ἀνυποστασίαbut ἐνυποστασία. The human nature of Christ was ἀνυπόστατος, impersonalis, before the incarnation, but became ἀνυπόστατοςby the incarnation, that is, ἐν αὐτῇ τῇ τοῦ Θεοῦ λόγου ὑποστάσει ὑποστᾶσα, and also ἑτερουπόστατος, and συνυπόστατος(compersonata), i.e., quod per se et proprie modo non subsistit, sed inest in alio per se subsistente et substantia cum eo copulatur. Christ did not assume a human person, but a humana natura, in qua ipse Deus homo nasceretur. The doctrine of the anhypostasia, impersonalitas, or rather enhypostasia, of the human nature of Christ, is already observed, in incipient form, in Cyril of Alexandria, and was afterwards more fully developed by John of Damascus (De orthodoxa fide, lib. iii.), who, however, did not, for all this, conceive Christ as a mere generic being typifying mankind, but as a concrete human individual. Comp. Petavius, De incarnatione, l. v. c. 5-8 (tom. iv. p. 421 sqq.); Dorner, l. c. ii. p. 262 ff.; and J. P. Lange, Christliche Dogmatik, Part ii. p. 713.
Thus interpreted, the church doctrine of the enhypostasia presents no very great metaphysical or psychological difficulty. It is true we cannot, according to our modern way of thinking, conceive a complete human nature without personality. We make personality itself consist in intelligence and free will, so that without it the nature sinks to a mere abstraction of powers, qualities, and functions.16471647 Even in the scholastic era this difficulty was felt. Peter the Lombard says (Sentent. iii. d. 5 d.): Non accepit Verbum Dei personam hominis, sed naturam, quia non erat ex carne illa una composita persona, quam Verbum accepit, sed accipiendo univIt et uniendo accepit. E: A quibusdam opponitur, quod persona assumpsit personam. Persona enim est substantia naturalis individuae naturae, hoc autem est anima. Ergo si animam assumpsit et personam. Quod ideo non sequitur, quia anima non est persona, quando alii rei unita est personaliter, sed quando per se est. Illa autem anima nunquam fuIt quin esset alii rei conjuncta. But the human nature of Jesus never was, in fact, alone; it was from the beginning inseparably united with another nature, which is personal, and which assumed the human into a unity of life with itself. The Logos-personality is in this case the light of self-consciousness, and the impelling power of will, and pervades as well the human nature as the divine.16481648 The Puritan theologian, John Owen (Works, vol. i. p. 223), says of the human nature of Christ quite correctly, and in agreement with the Chalcedonian Christology: “In itself it is ἀνυπόστατος—that which hath not a subsistence of its own, which should give it individuation and distinction from the same nature in any other person. But it hath its subsistence in the person of the Son, which thereby is its own. The divine nature, as in that person, is its suppositum.”
8. Criticism and development. This Chalcedonian Christology has latterly been subjected to a rigorous criticism, and has been charged now with dualism, now with docetism, according as its distinction of two natures or its doctrine of the impersonality of the human nature has most struck the eye.16491649 Dr. Baur (Geschichte der Trinitätslehre, Bd. i. p. 823 f.) imputes to the Creed of Chalcedon “untenable inconsistency, equivocal indefiniteness, and discordant incompleteness,” but ascribes to it the merit of insisting upon the human in Christ as having equal claims with the divine, and of thus leaving the possibility of two equally legitimate points of view. Dr. Dorner, who regards the Chalcedonian statement as premature and inadequate (Geschichte der Christologie, Bd. ii. pp. 83, 130), raises against it the double objection of leaning to docetism on the one hand and to dualism on the other. He sums up his judgment of the labors of the ancient church down to John of Damascus in the sphere of Christology in the following words (ii. 273): “If we review the result of the Christological speculation of the ancient church, it is undeniable that the satisfying and final result cannot be found in it, great as its traditional influence even to this day is. It mutilates the human nature, inasmuch as, in an Apollinarian way, it joins to the trunk of a human nature the head of the divine hypostasis, and thus sacrifices the integrity of the humanity to the unity of the person. Yet after all—and this is only the converse of the same fault—in its whole doctrine of the natures and the will, it gives the divine and the human only an outward connection, and only, as it were, pushes the two natures into each other, without modification even of their properties. We discover, it is true, endeavors after something better, which indicate that the Christological image hovering before the mind, has not yet, with all the apparent completeness of the theory, found its adequate expression. But these endeavors are unfruitful.” Dr. W. Beyschlag, in his essay before the German Evangelische Kirchentag at Altenburg, hold in 1864, concurs with these remarks, and says of the Chalcedonian dogma: “Instead of starting from the living intuition of the God-filled humanity of Christ, it proceeded from the defective and abstract conception of two separate natures, to be, as it were, added together in Christ; introduced thereby an irremediable dualism into his personal life; and at the same time, by transferring the personality wholly to the divine nature, depressed the humanity which in thesi it recognized, to a mere unsubstantial accident of the Godhead, at bottom only apparent and docetistic.” But Beyschlag denies the real personal pre-existence of Christ and consequently a proper incarnation, and has by this denial caused no small scandal among the believing party in Germany. Dorner holds firmly to the pre-existence and incarnation, but makes the latter a gradual ethical unification of the Logos and the human nature, consummated in the baptism and the exaltation of Christ.
But these imputations neutralize each other, like the imputations of tritheism and modalism which may be made against the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity when either the tripersonality or the consubstantiality is taken alone. This, indeed, is the peculiar excellence of the creed of Chalcedon, that it exhibits so sure a tact and so wise a circumspection in uniting the colossal antitheses in Christ, and seeks to do justice alike to the distinction of the natures and to the unity of the person.16501650 F. R. Hasse (Kirchengeschichte, i. p. 177): “By the Creed of Chalcedon justice has been done to both the Alexandrian and the Antiochian Christology; the antagonism of the two is adjusted, and in the dogma of the one θεάνθρωπος done away.” In Christ all contradictions are reconciled.
Within these limits there remains indeed ample scope for further Christological speculations on the possibility, reality, and mode of the incarnation; on its relation to the revelation of God and the development of man; on its relation to the immutability of God and the trinity of essence and the trinity of revelation:—questions which, in recent times especially, have been earnestly and profoundly discussed by the Protestant theologians of Germany.16511651 Witness the Christological investigations of Schleiermacher, R. Rothe, Göschel, Dorner, Liebner, Lange, Thomasius, Martensen, Gess, Ebrard, Schöberlein, Plitt, Beyschlag, and others. A thorough criticism of the latest theories is given by Dorner, in his large work on Christology, Bd. ii. p. 1260 ff. (Eng. transl. Div. 2d, vol. iii. p. l00 ff.), and in several dissertations upon the immutability of God, found in his Jabrbücher für Deutsche Theologie, 1856 and 1858; also by Philippi, Kirchliche Glaubenslehre, iv. i. pp. 344-382; Plitt, Evangelische Glaubenslehre (1863), i. p. 360 ff.; and Woldemar Schmidt, Das Dogma vom Gottmenschen, mit Beziehung auf die neusten Lösungsversuche der Gegensätze, Leipzig, 1865. The English theology has contented itself with the traditional acceptance and vindication of the old Catholic doctrine of Christ’s person, without instituting any special investigations of its own, while the doctrine of the Trinity has been thoroughly reproduced and vindicated by Cudworth, Bull, and Waterland, without, however, being developed further. Dr. Shedd also considers the Chalcedonian symbol as the ne plus ultra of Christological knowledge, “beyond which it is probable the human mind is unable to go, in the endeavor to unfold the mystery of Christ’s complex person, which in some of its aspects is even more baffling than the mystery of the Trinity” (History of Christian Doctrine, i. p. 408). This is probably also the reason why this work, in surprising contrast with every other History of Doctrine, makes no mention whatever of the Monophysite, Monothelite, Adoptian, Scholastic, Lutheran, Socinian, Rationalistic, and later Evangelical controversies and theories respecting this central dogma of Christianity.
The great want, in the present state of the Christological controversy, is, on the one hand, a closer discussion of the Pauline idea of the kenosis, the self-limitation, self-renunciation of the Logos, and on the other hand, a truly human portrait of Jesus in his earthly development from childhood to the fall maturity of manhood, without prejudice to his deity, but rather showing forth his absolute uniqueness and sinless perfection as a proof of his Godhead. Both these tasks can and should be so performed, that the enormous labor of deep and earnest thought in the ancient church be not condemned as a sheer waste of strength, but in substance confirmed, expanded, and perfected.
And even among believing Protestant scholars, who agree in the main views of the theanthropic glory of the person of Christ, opinions still diverge. Some restrict the kenosis to the laying aside of the divine form of existence, or divine dignity and glory;16521652 Of the δόξα θεοῦ, John xvii. 5; the μορφὴ Θεοῦ, Phil. ii. 6 ff. others strain it in different degrees, even to a partial or entire emptying of the divine essence out of himself, so that the inner trinitarian process between Father and Son, and the government of the world through the Son, were partially or wholly suspended during his earthly life.16531653 Among these modem Kenotics, W. F. Gess goes the farthest in his Lehre von der Person Christi (Basel, 1856). Dorner opposes the theory of the Kenotics and calls them Theopaschites and Patripassians (ii. 126 ff.). There is, however, an essential distinction, inasmuch as the ancient Monophysite Theopaschitism reduces the human nature of Christ to a mere accident of his Godhead, while Thomasius, Gess, and the other German Kenotics or Kenosists acknowledge the full humanity of Christ, and lay great stress on it. Some, again, view the incarnation as an instantaneous act, consummated in the miraculous conception and nativity; others as a gradual process, an ethical unification of the eternal Logos and the man Jesus in continuous development, so that the complete God-Man would be not so much the beginning as the consummation of the earthly life of Jesus.
But all these more recent inquiries, earnest, profound, and valuable as they are, have not as yet led to any important or generally accepted results, and cannot supersede the Chalcedonian Christology. The theology of the church will ever return anew to deeper and still deeper contemplation and adoration of the theanthropic person of Jesus Christ, which is, and ever will be, the sun of history, the miracle of miracles, the central mystery of godliness, and the inexhaustible fountain of salvation and life for the lost race of man.
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