An Issue In Christology

I was reading yesterday in my Shorter Catechism commentaries in preparation for Sunday, when I came across a rather old issue in Christology. What relationship does Christ’s divinity have to the suffering of Christ?

Some background on the question is necessary. We believe that Jesus has a full divine nature, and a full human nature (both body and soul), but united in (only) one person. The Reformed have believed (over against the Lutherans) that the properties of the human nature may be ascribed to the whole person, and that the properties of the divine nature may be ascribed to the person, but that the properties of the human nature may NOT be ascribed to the divine nature, or vice versa. In the Lord’s Supper, for instance, the Lutherans believe that Christ’s human nature is omnipresent in the Supper, whereas the Reformed believe that the human nature of Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father, and that Christ is rather present by the Holy Spirit (this is the so-called extra Calvinisticum, the “extra” ability that Christ’s divine nature has to be everywhere present over and above the limited physical presence of His human nature). Sometimes Jesus does or says something according to one nature, and sometimes according to the other nature.

So, when it comes to the suffering on the cross, what exactly was happening? Did God suffer on the cross? This is a common question asked to candidates for licensure and ordination. I believe that the answer is that His divine nature sustained His human nature, but did not itself suffer. This sustaining would not be limited to the physical suffering, but would also include the spiritual suffering, as well as the sin-bearing. This is not a communication of properties of the divine to the human, since God also sustains us without communicating Godness to us. The divine nature was therefore active in the suffering, but not as the direct recipient of the suffering. What do ya’ll think?

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117 Comments

  1. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2012 at 9:46 am

    Lane, that’s basically been my understanding. The suffering was In his human nature only. There is a congruency here that I think is essential to the design of the atonement: human offense paid for by human judgement.

    I forget where but I think the Heidleberg Catechism reflects this where it talks why Jesus needed to be human and divine.

  2. George Crow said,

    March 23, 2012 at 10:08 am

    Fascinating, but I am not sure that I would want to try to swim in that “deep water,” particularly from the pulpit.
    Sounds too “Western” to me to try to dissect the Savior so.

  3. greenbaggins said,

    March 23, 2012 at 10:23 am

    George, great to see you here! For those who don’t know, George is senior pastor of Northeast Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Columbia.

    I think I would agree that this might be better Bible study material than sermon material, when there can be more interaction, etc. As a matter of curiosity, how would you go about answering the Lutherans on the issue of their belief in the ubiquity of Christ’s human nature?

  4. Andrew Barnes said,

    March 23, 2012 at 10:41 am

    WLC Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?

    A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death, give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God’s justice, procure his favour, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

  5. John Harutunian said,

    March 23, 2012 at 10:48 am

    Lane, my own layman’s point of view would be pretty much in line with your friend George Crow’s (#2). We all agree that Jesus Christ was one Person. It sounds like you’re saying that part of Him suffered and part of Him didn’t.
    Of course there’s mystery here, but this sounds closer to contradiction.

  6. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2012 at 11:48 am

    Andrew: hmmm, that’s what I was thinking about. Goes to show I need to spend more time reading the LC.

  7. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 12:46 pm

    Lane, I appreciate your processing this with us, because I continue to work through the question of divine suffering on the cross. Here are a few excerpts I found helpful when I was recently prepping for a Bible study through John.

    Baillie, God Was in Christ:

    “. . . if we take the Christology of the New Testament at its highest we can only say that ‘God was in Christ’ in that great atoning sacrifice, and even that the Priest and the Victim both were none other than God. . . it is an expiatory sacrifice, because sin is a dreadfully real thing which love cannot tolerate or lightly pass over, and it is only out of the suffering of such inexorable love that true forgiveness, as distinct from an indulgent amnesty, could ever come. That is the objective process of atonement that goes on in the very life of God. All this may seem to conflict with the traditional doctrine of the divine impassibility, and perhaps the prevalence of that doctrine, which excludes all suffering from the divine nature, is one of the factors that have hindered the acceptance of such ideas as I have been developing. But it is hard to see how a rigid acceptance of doctrine can leave room for any belief in costly divine sin-bearing at all, even in the incarnate life. There is little help in the traditional solution, that while the impassible God bore suffering in His incarnate life, it was not God the Father but God the Son that suffered, and He suffered not in His divine but in His human nature; for that leaves us asking whether it was really God that suffered, and if not, how can we say that God bore our sins?”

    Shedd, Dogmatic Theology: “It would be improper to say, ‘God’s nature died,’ because this can have but one meaning. But it is proper to say ‘God died,’ because this may mean either ‘God’s nature,’ or the ‘God-man;’ either unincarnate or incarnate God ; either the Logos or Jesus Christ. It would be proper to speak of the blood of Immanuel. But Immanuel means ‘God with us.'”

    Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology:

    “During the Protestant Reformation in the sixteenth century, Martin Luther embraced both Nicaea and Chalcedon as respected landmarks of Christian doctrine and at the same time rejected belief in divine impassibility and attributed creaturely experiences to the Son of God in his incarnate state. For Luther it is no scandal to say ‘God was born’ and ‘God suffered and died’ and ‘God was crucified’ and really mean it as more than mere figures of speech. Luther carried the communication idiomatum to its logical conclusion.”

    Leithart, The Four [Gospels]:

    “Does Jesus suffer on the cross as a shell of a man abandoned by His better, divine half, or is God dying? And, if the latter, whatever could that mean?

    And classical Christology provides the right coordinates. Orthodox Christology insists that the hero of the gospel story is the Son of God who has assumed human flesh. Everything Jesus does and says and suffers is what the Son of God does and says and suffers. Jesus is never a human shell, emptied of the divine presence.

    . . . How can God enter a womb and be born? On the face of it, isn’t that just absurd? How can God sweat blood and die in anguish? Arians said, God can’t; so Jesus must be a secondary, not-quite-God. God can’t do those things, so He sends an exalted creature to do His dirty work. Nestorians also said, God can’t; so some happenings in the life of Jesus—birth and death especially—are happenings to the human, not the divine, nature, while other happenings happen to the divine nature. Docetists said, God can’t; so it all appearance; the Son has no real human flesh. These denials are only common sense, common Greek sense especially.

    The Church, against all sense and through protracted struggle, consistently rejected those hedges and safe havens. Orthodoxy has always been a risk-taking enterprise, but it is nowhere so adventurous as in Christology. Bowing to Scripture, the Church said: God the Son, wholly eternally equal to the Father, took on flesh, God was born, God suffered human hunger and thirst, God took the lash and the spitting on His own flesh, and God died in that flesh on the cross.”

  8. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 12:55 pm

    Since I forgot to add his first name, I should make it clear that the last excerpt was from Peter Leithart. This introduction to his book on the gospels is one of the best short treatments I’ve seen of this issue.

  9. Sean Gerety said,

    March 23, 2012 at 1:05 pm

    God cannot suffer for the same reason He cannot tire or thirst. Your answer is correct and I would think it hardly controversial. The WCF states that God is without body, parts, or passions, immutable….

    God is impassible.

  10. greenbaggins said,

    March 23, 2012 at 1:07 pm

    I would agree, Sean. Unfortunately, as you can tell from the comments that Jack Bradley has adduced, it is controversial, even in “Reformed” circles.

  11. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2012 at 1:22 pm

    Jack: the Leithart quote certainly does raise questions vis-a-vis divine impassibility.

  12. michael said,

    March 23, 2012 at 1:25 pm

    Lane,

    Would I be wrong to take the framework you have laid out in this thread and apply it to, say, this verse and accept that God expressed His emotions in such a way that I can embrace them and live with them in common with what the Spirit is expressing it?

    Here: Gen 6:6 And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.

    Of course the Greek word is different than the Hebrew for both “sorry” and “grieved”.

    Also, to take the concept a bit farther, what about this one, too?

    Joh 11:35 Jesus wept.

    Am I far off to conclude that God can be emotional about things Divinely and Naturally but I can only experience His Divine and Natural emotions spiritually?

    I mean, I sense there was some agitation in ubiquitous God prior to the words we read at Genesis 1:2 and that that darkness was on the surface of the deep that produced the agitation we naturally sense? All of our natural creation has been touched by that darkness, hasn’t it? And, if that is so, then don’t I both by virtue of being born again to be conjoined to His Divine nature and by my Adamic nature have a right to express similar emotions like those, too?

    Finally, to ask it another way, how do I approach experiencing the emotion of hatred as is revealed by these verses?

    Psa_97:10 O you who love the LORD, hate evil! He preserves the lives of his saints; he delivers them from the hand of the wicked.

    Pro_8:13 The fear of the LORD is hatred of evil. Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate.

  13. March 23, 2012 at 1:33 pm

    If memory serves, I remember Horton teaching that the instances in the gospels of Christ suffering or being tempted were NOT examples of his human weakness being mitigated or lessened by his divinity, but examples of his suffering as a Man sustained by the Spirit. Thus he can be an actual comfort and example to us.

    I don’t remember if he applied this to the cross, though.

  14. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 1:34 pm

    Lane & Reed,

    Leithart is saying the same thing that Luther, Shedd and Baillie are saying.
    I suppose if those names don’t carry weight with you, neither will Frame’s:

    Frame, The Doctrine of God (Can God Suffer?) p. 613f:

    “. . . Christ’s sufferings are the sufferings of God. The Council of Chalcedon (451), which defined orthodox Christology, said that Jesus has two complete natures, divine and human, united in one person.

    We may say that Jesus suffered and died on the cross ‘according to his human nature,’ but what suffered was not a ‘nature,’ but the person of Jesus. And the person of Jesus is nothing less than the second person of the Trinity, who has taken to himself a human nature. His experiences as a man are truly his experiences, the experiences of God.

    Are these experiences only of the Son, and not of the Father? The persons of the Trinity are not divided; rather, the Son is in the Father, and the Father is in the Son (John 10:38; 14:10-11, 20; 17:21). Theologians have called this mutual indwelling circumcessio or circumincessio.
    However, the Father does not have exactly the same experiences of suffering and death that the Son has. Although they dwell in one another, the Father and the Son play different roles in the history of redemption. . . The Son was crucified, the Father was not. Indeed, during the Crucifixion, the Father forsook the Son as he bore the sins of his people (Matt. 27:46).

    Was the Father, nevertheless, still ‘in’ the Son at that moment of separation? What exactly does it mean for the Father to be ‘in’ the Son when he addressed the Son from heaven? These are difficult questions, and I have not heard any persuasive answers to them. But we must do justice to both the continuity and the discontinuity between the persons of the Trinity. Certainly the Father empathized, agonized, and grieved over the death of his Son, but he did not experience death in the same way that the Son did.

    . . . God the Son did die, and of course he rose again. So in his incarnate existence, God suffered and even died—yet his death did not leave us with a godless universe. Beyond that, I think we are largely ignorant, and we should admit that ignorance.

    . . . the doctrine of impassibility should not be used to deny that God has emotions, or to deny that God the Son suffered real injury and death on the cross. But God in his transcendent nature cannot be harmed in any way, nor can he suffer loss to his being. In his eternal existence, ‘suffering loss’ could only mean losing some attribute, being defeated in his war with Satan, or otherwise failing to accomplish his eternal plan. Scripture assures us that none of these things will happen, and so they cannot happen. In this sense, God is impassible. . . God’s eternal nature is invulnerable, and that invulnerability is also precious to the believer.”

  15. greenbaggins said,

    March 23, 2012 at 1:41 pm

    Michael, those passages refer, I believe, to anthropomorphic understandings of how God acts.

    Jack, the fallacy in what Frame says is that, although we can attribute something about Jesus’ human nature to the person of Christ as a whole, that is NOT the same thing as saying that we can attribute to the divine nature something that happened in His human nature. This is, in fact, the Lutheran error of communication of attributes. Yes, we say that the person of Christ suffered, not His nature. That is not the same thing as saying that God suffered. God cannot suffer. Frame even seems to be bordering on patripassionism there, even though he qualifies it as “different” suffering.

  16. michael said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    I defer to Crow!

    I would say, from this novice’s mind, when I think of the sense and meaning of “sin” as “separation”, I get the sense that the sufferings of Christ’s Divine Nature was jointly that of having to experience the mysterious phenomenon of being separated from the Father and the Holy Spirit, ever so brief that that passage of time of suffering was, especially in light of “eternity”, that that is without beginning or end!

    For me, what Jack at @14 left off with is precious! “… God’s eternal nature is invulnerable, and that invulnerability is also precious to the believer.”

    We all hope in someone greater, swearing by them. God did make promises. God cannot lie. I can cling to Him with His help. I have lost all hope in myself.

    I suppose with us men, we are all going to have to accept the wisdom of Solomon and do our best not to separate from one another but rather humbly clothe ourselves as Peter wrote at 1 Peter 5:5b…11?

    Here is the wisdom of Solomon that I am thinking about:

    Ecc 3:11 He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.

    How can God put “eternity” into my created heart when I am a man destined to leave this life like every other man, one day down, one hour down, one minute down, one second down to my last human breath that I will breathe then pass into His Holy eternity?

    Bless you, Lane, and may the Lord’s blessings continue to thrill your spirit, soul and body sanctifying you until your time is done, as well! :)

  17. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:15 pm

    Lane, Frame is not attributing to the divine nature something that happened in Christ’s human nature. Read him again: “what suffered was not a ‘nature,’ but the person of Jesus.”

    And he certainly is not in any sense guilty of patripassionism.

  18. Ron Marlin said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:23 pm

    Odd then how the Holy Spirit uses such emotional language, like that of Hos. 11:8 for example, if God cannot suffer. Are you not imposing a Greek philosophical construct about divinity upon God that is simply not warranted in Scripture?

  19. Wyatt said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    A good book is Jurgen Moltmann’s The Crucified God. Have you read it?

  20. Ron Marlin said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:24 pm

    With Jack on this, it seems like there is a lot of mis-reading of Frame over here…

  21. Wyatt said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:25 pm

    Also, “Divinity and Humanity: The Incarnation Reconsidered (Current Issues in Theology)” by Oliver Crisp

  22. March 23, 2012 at 2:32 pm

    For what it’s worth, Horton also emphasized that the whole point of the communicatio idiomatum is to provide a way to TALK about God. We are not harnessing him by making these distinctions, but are merely seeking theological justification for predicating the things about him that Scripture does.

    Like “God purchasing us with his own blood.”

  23. Wyatt said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:44 pm

    Calvin’s Real Spiritual Presence often reads like he’s speaking out of both sides of his mouth as he’s trying to please the memorial views of Bullinger/Zwingli’s memorial view with melanchthon/Luther’s consubstantiation. Bullinger told Calvin he didn’t understand Luther’s German in rejection when he rejected extra Calvinisticum. It’s certainly a christological problem of how the two natures relate to each other in the anhyposatis/enhypostasis discussions. If Christ’s human nature does not have an ehypostasis relation to his divine nature, then we’ve divided the person of Christ like the Nestorians. It applies too all kinds of things like the Logos. Kuyper said that Christ’s divine nature held archtypal knowledge, and his human nature held only ectypal knowledge. There’s clearly ectypal knowledge when Jesus reveals the word of God (ie Barth) in terms of anhypostasis, but in crucifixion for the atonement to be effectual, there seems to be enhypostatis where the death of the physical nature of god is somehow a divine propitiating action. This is where Moltmann use of Luther’s phrase “The Crucified God”. A rigid misunderstanding of patripassianism can result in saying God does not love or is not love, because the father doesnt experience passion. So there’s per Moltman, Jesus’ human nature suffering on the cross, includes the whole person of Jesus, (ie anyhypostasis) the divine nature of Jesus participates in the suffering view its hypostatic union in the single person of Christ, and likewise the person of the father experiences the suffering of Christ’s person through the human nature of the person of Christ but not directly. So i don’t think we can blame Calvin for striving for unity between the Swiss Reformed and Lutherans. We may say with Luther, The Crucified God, if we are clear that it is in the human nature of the person of Christ in the Godhead specifically but not direct suffering but indirect.

  24. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:45 pm

    Lane,

    The fallacy of what I perceive you are saying is this: you seem to minimize the fact that the hypostatic union is essential for our salvation: the union of divine and human natures in the one person of Jesus Christ.

    Atonement is the work of the God-man: God and man in hypostatic union. Atonement is possible only on the ground of the hypostatic union, the hypostatic at-one-ment: the indivisible, inseparable, unconfused, and unchangeable personal union of divine and human natures in Jesus Christ.

    I think this excerpt from Olson is helpful. I am in no way accusing you of Nestorius’ error, but I do think you’re not making enough of the hypostatic union in your Christology.

    Roger E. Olson, The Story of Christian Theology:

    “Nestorius tried to carve out a way of explaining Jesus’ real humanity and real divinity that would preserve the natural integrity of both realities in him. . . This meant, of course, that Nestorius had to affirm that Jesus Christ was two persons. . . a sophisticated form of adoptionism. . . The key similarity lay in the fact that in both adoptionism and Nestorianism the Son of God never actually enters into human existence.

    . . . He wanted to be able to say that the God person of the union worked the miracles and the human person suffered. Divinity cannot suffer and humanity is incapable of altering the course of nature. . . He was horrified by Cyril’s communicatio idiomatum idea and automatically rejected it as Apollinarian.

    Cyril wanted to say that the Son of God suffered and died (because of his union with human nature) and that the man Jesus walked on water and read people’s minds (because of his divinity). . . Cyril was right to criticize Nestorius’s Christology as little more than warmed-over and dressed-up adoptionism.”

    Again, I am not accusing you of Nestorianism, a confusion of nature/person, but I do think you are not making enough of the hypostatic union in your Christology when you say, “God cannot suffer” and “His divine nature sustained His human nature, but did not itself suffer.”

    I think there are some real problems in saying that Jesus suffered on the cross in his humanity only.

  25. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:51 pm

    Again, Baillie:

    “There is little help in the traditional solution, that while the impassible God bore suffering in His incarnate life, it was not God the Father but God the Son that suffered, and He suffered not in His divine but in His human nature; for that leaves us asking whether it was really God that suffered, and if not, how can we say that God bore our sins?”

  26. Wyatt said,

    March 23, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    Jason,

    I’ve had several people tell me there is no Reformed Christology. That’s always confused me because of the communicatio idiomatum, but maybe its fair to say that Christology was not fully developed yet. People have also said this about Calvin’s Covenant Theology (cf. Peter Lillback’s book on Calvin views on Covenant Theology)

  27. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 3:04 pm

    Wyatt,

    I haven’t read Moltmann, but Frame references him several times in his treatment, both affirming and critiquing his views.

  28. March 23, 2012 at 3:08 pm

    Wyatt,

    Christology hadn’t yet developed by the sixteenth century. Who, us arrogant?

    Wouldn’t Calvin have just seen himself as Chalcedonian?

  29. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Jack, no. 14: you need to try and be more careful. instead of assuming, as you do here,

    “I suppose if those names don’t carry weight with you, …”

    Why don’t you just ask me instead?

    I specifically only referenced your Leithart quote. And yes, as i read a lot of what reads as equivocation from Dr. Leithart in the FV issue, I do NOT presume Dr. Leithart is merely being consistent with historic creeds or the reformed theology he is sworn to uphold. Instead (practicing what I preach to you), I ask questions of him.

    Try it yourself and see how great it works. ;-)

  30. Ron Marlin said,

    March 23, 2012 at 3:39 pm

    Jason,

    Right, that’s how we get off from under some of the Scriptures that communicate truths about God which don’t fit into our Systematics.

  31. Ron Marlin said,

    March 23, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    previous comment was in reference to #22.

    “Purchase with His own blood” is metaphoric language, Hos. 11:8 is asking questions

  32. Wyatt said,

    March 23, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Jason,

    The question is what development took place in the Reformation that was not already established. I.e. The communicatio idiomatum is an example of something new. I wouldn’t say that the Reformers developed Chalcedon Christology, but just received it.

  33. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 4:23 pm

    Reed,

    Point well taken.

  34. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Reed,

    I should say, well taken as to asking follow up questions, not as to your Leithart evaluations.

  35. jedpaschall said,

    March 23, 2012 at 4:32 pm

    Like I had commented over at Stellman’s blog, our church has a group studying through Horton’s new Systematic Theology, and he does a good job of clearing things up as he reads Calvin through the lens of the Cappadocian and Eastern Church Fathers, and this extends to his discussion of Divine Impassibility in Ch. 6, which we studied just this week.

    Horton frequently uses the essence/energies distinction of the Eastern Chucrch to further clarify a whole host of issues from the Creator/creature distinction to impassibility. By essence Horton speaks of the Divine essence known only to God via archetypal knowledge, which creatures cannot peer into or comprehend. By energies he means God revealed in his actions and character in his activity among his creatures, which can be known through ectypal knowledge. So, God in his nature and essence is impassable, yet in his energies can enter into the created and human realm as a real actor and experience as any other sentient agent. None of what God experiences in his energies alters or changes, or inflames to passion his essence.

    So when we come to the cross, God in Christ is experiencing the full pain of death through his energies, as he acts in time and space. God and Christ are not divisible, so the divine Person of the Son in his energies experience the fullness of the cross, of death, and then of resurrection. However, and this is a big HOWEVER, God in his essence experiences neither death nor pain, because how can the Nature or the Essence of the eternal God die? The entire Trinity in their energies as real actors in salvation history would have felt the reverberations of the death of the Son, and the horrific tremors that would have been felt in the Godhead, but in the divine, impassable essence there would be no pain of death, only the eternal joy and power with which God in his essence has willed to carry out the decree of his eternal will.

    I had been wrestling with similar questions as the ones posed here on the blog, and have found Horton’s use of the essence/energies distinction to be more than a little helpful. This category originating in the Eastern Church was never picked up in the West until Calvin who refashioned it in his Christology. I see it as crucial because if God in his essence experience the pain of death, which was central to the decree and covenant, the stench of death, and the horror of separation between Father, Son, and Spirit would have existed in the divine essence from all eternity. However, with the distinction discussed, the divine attribute of impassibility is firmly upheld, because God in his essence is the same God he always was and will be (immutable), and does not suffer loss, nor is he wounded in his essence, rather with joy, and perfect simplicity of essence causes whatever he wills to come to pass, regardless of what tumults this may cause for any actor on the stage of salvation-history.

  36. jedpaschall said,

    March 23, 2012 at 4:48 pm

    The upshot of the last comment is that I think that Frame, Leithart, Baillie, Olson, et. al. truly confuse the doctrine of impassibility. Without attributing motive to these theologians, I frankly had tracked with these trains of thought as I have grappled with the issue. It seemed to me, like it did to Luther that it was impossible to assert the Christ had died without saying that God had died in some way. For me, it was an issue of being unable to reconcile the issue from the vantage point of my own perspective. But I think I fell into the error, and a grave one at that of making God beholden to my own abilities to perceive him. The fact of the matter is that God in his essence is beyond my knowing as a creature.

    So, where how I currently see the cross is that God was in Christ, experiencing the weight of the cross as an actor in history, that when Jesus died, God did not die in his essence but rather experienced it in his energies as he entered the human realm to take our sins upon himself in the person of the Son. I think that the doctrine of impassability has incredible pastoral import, because it is the bliss and eternal joy present in the very nature of God, that cannot be sullied by evil that sustained Christ in his humanity to endure the cross, scorn its shame, for the joy set before him, expressed in the salvation of his people. The impassable God, if not deterred or injured even by the horrors of the cross and the wickedness of all humanity, can sure strengthen his people to obedience in the passing trials that befall them.

  37. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 23, 2012 at 5:35 pm

    So much of this is helpfully addressed, I believe, by a careful study of the Tome of Leo (449), which was the foundation for Chalcedon’s Christology, and which affirms the distinction of the two natures in the integrity of the one person. Leo’s Tome is a delight to read.

    I also believe that B.B. Warfield’s “Emotional Life of our Lord” wonderfully addresses how that Christ both enjoyed a full emotional life and remained impassible. Moltmann denies God’s impassibility, not merely Christ’s, and is not the path for us to go down. Neither, however, is any sort of view that denies that Christ suffered in the integrity of his theanthropic person.

  38. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 5:51 pm

    Jed,

    I can’t quite make out why exactly you’re disagreeing with “Frame, Leithart, Baillie, Olson, et al” regarding impassibility, but since you reference Horton positively, let me ask if you would disagree with him as well regarding impassibility:

    Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (pp. 476-477):

    “Luther had introduced the novel view (though similar in some respects to Cyril’s formulation) that the characteristics (or attributes) of Christ’s divine nature are communicated to the human nature. Therefore, Christ can be present bodily at every altar because his human nature shares in the omnipresence of his divine nature.

    . . . From a Reformed perspective, this view threatened to roll back the ecumenical consensus achieved at Chalcedon. While affirming Christ’s presence in the Supper, the Reformed held that he could not be present bodily anywhere on earth until his return to glory.

    . . . the Lutheran-Reformed debate turns on the question of the communication of attributes (communication idiomatum). From the Reformed perspective, this refers to the fact that by virtue of the hypostatic union the attributes of either nature belong to the one person. Hodge explains (Systematic Theology, 2:329-93):

    ‘[Christ] is finite and infinite; ignorant and omniscient; less than God and equal with God; He existed from eternity and He was born in time; He created all things and He was a man of sorrow. It is on this principle, that what is true of either nature is true of the person, that a multitude of passages of Scripture are to be explained. . . . The forms of expression, therefore, long prevalent in the Church, “the blood of God,” “God the mighty maker died,” etc., are in accordance with Scriptural usage.’”

  39. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 6:12 pm

    Alan, good to see you here. Thanks for the reminder of Warfield’s great work. Your post also reminds me to re-post the site to your recent seminar on Christ and Culture. It is excellent! I especially appreciated your Session 4 Q & A.

    http://immanuelurc.net/tp40/Application.asp?app=Resource&ID=145906

    And, yes, Frame has a very strong critique of Moltmann, although he finds some things helpful.

  40. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Jack, no. 34: understood

  41. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Jed, quite helpful.

  42. jedpaschall said,

    March 23, 2012 at 6:46 pm

    Jack,

    Horton’s work on impassibility makes it quite clear that this extends to the divine nature or essence which Christ shares in, meaning that in his divine nature (essence) Christ is impassible along with the rest of the Trinity. Meaning that the divine essence, even in Christ on the cross suffers no injury, similarly in his temptation the divine essence was not tempted to sin – it cannot be because it is an impossibility for the divine essence to be passable, the divine essence has always been singular as God pursues the fulfillment of his will in all things, regardless of circumstance or external contingency.

    In his energies God enters the human realm as a real actor as he relates to his people through the construct of the covenant. By the very nature of this relationship, God engages humans in a dynamic process where he can “relent” or “grieve” or otherwise change plans he has stated prior, but this does no damage to the impassibility of his essence. If God was to suffer in his essence or be deemed passable in any way, it would undo the absolute certainty of his will, decree, and covenant agreements with his people because he could be so unsettled by the great evil of humanity or the angels, especially at the cross that there would be the real possibility that God could have been dissuaded from his purposes. However, this is not possible because God is impassible in his essence, he does not need, nor can he be persuaded to change what he has decreed to bring about.

    I think if you read Horton’s portion in Ch. 6 on impassibility you will see that it is quite distinct from Frame who asserts that we must somehow plead ignorance in light of a lack of sufficient data regarding the impassibility of the divine essence as it pertains to the Cross. Either the logical inferences are there or they aren’t, and by this line of argumentation we could stop short of defining many other mysteries in Scripture as well. Of course there is infinitely more that we do not know about what is actually happening within the Godhead at the cross, but impassibility is either an orthodox doctrine or it isn’t. The other sources you quote go much further than Frame of course, so where Frame and Horton may not be as far apart as Moltmann and Horton, I wouldn’t categorize their positions as interchangeable. Horton defines impassibility to the divine essence, not restricting it to any of the Persons in the Godhead, allowing for more dynamic relations as God manifests his energies in each of the Persons of the Trinity in various ways throughout salvation history.

    In this manner Horton upholds and defends impassibility, where Frame chalks up conclusions that were determined as early as the ECF’s, reiterated in Calvin, as something that is inteterminable because we are largely ignorant of whether or not impassibility was operative at the cross. If impassibility was not operative in the divine essence while Christ was suffering and died on the cross, then God is not impassible, it is a zero sum proposition. This is not to preclude that there was not suffering in the Persons of the Trinity during the crucifixion through their energies, but this has to be distinguished from the essence of the Godhead. I see nothing to indicate that Horton is using impassibility to assert that God as a Person cannot enter into the human realm of suffering and sin and be affected. Persons can be affected, essences cannot (Horton p. 249).

  43. greenbaggins said,

    March 23, 2012 at 6:55 pm

    Wes Bredenhof reviewed Michael Horton’s systematic theology. In general, it was a favorable review. However, the essence/energies distinction is one thing he criticized Horton about. The problem with the distinction (and Bredenhof quotes Robert Letham saying the same thing) is that it either implicitly or explicitly undercuts the simplicity of God. Now, Horton describes the difference by means of an analogy: the sun is like the essence of God, whereas the rays of the sun are like the energies of God. The other problem (and you can see this with Horton’s formulation) is that God has therefore not revealed His essence in Scripture. However, what is Exodus 3 if not a revelation of who God is? He is the eternally existent One.

    Also, one cannot separate existence from attributes. As Turretin says, the attributes ARE the existence of God, viewed from different perspectives, like facets on a diamond. You can look at the diamond from differing points of view, but it’s still the same diamond.

    Now, I don’t know whether I am competent enough to evaluate whether Bredenhof is correct about Horton, although I can see his point. I tried to get a hold of Horton today to ask him about it. I will try to clarify, and see what he would say to the whole issue concerning simplicity.

    Of course, the standard reply is often that the Trinity undercuts simplicity. But perichoresis is the answer to that problem: each person of the Trinity completely exhausts and interpenetrates the other persons of the Trinity. What would be the answer to the essence/energies problem with regard to simplicity?

    Jack, we must be reading different versions of Frame. I see him as saying outright that God suffered on the cross. I actually believe that our entire question can be much clarified by asking the question this way: can God die? To ask the question is really to answer it. But we cannot separate part of the suffering of Christ from any other part: it is a seamless whole. If God suffered on the cross, then God died on the cross. I, for one, cannot go there.

  44. jedpaschall said,

    March 23, 2012 at 7:12 pm

    Lane,

    Thanks for the response there, it definitely is something to chew on. Since my official theological training was a mere 3.5 years at Moody, and our Systematic Theology courses didn’t wade into these waters, I wouldn’t say I have any expertise in the area. That said, while I can see the gist of Bredenhof and Letham are arguing, Horton’s interaction with the ECF’s is fairly extensive, and I doubt that Horton or the ECF’s would see the essence vs. energies distinction doing any damage to simplicity. God is simple in his essence, as Horton would argue, but his essence is distinct from his Person, because an essence cannot act, but a person can. In his energies, God acts, and interacts with his creatures, which is how we know him, not from his essence.

    I would like to read Bredenhof and Letham on this if you have the links. But it seems that this criticism doesn’t fly. God doesn’t relate to humans according to the simplicity of his essence, but from his Person who acts and reacts on the human plane. If there isn’t such a distinction between essences and energies, then we might run aground and begin to assert that God relates to us in his essence, since God cannot be divided. But Horton is right, essence, energies is an analogical distinction from the vantage point of our ectypal theology, we simply can’t know what this looks like from God’s perspective. Just as God’s Persons and essence can be distinct without being divisible, so also can his essence be from his energies – since they all properly belong to God.

    That’s the best stab I can make at it, but I’d welcome your response, and I’d love to read anything that you hear back from Horton, because this is one of the more gripping portions of his book IMO, at least so far.

  45. Mark Kim said,

    March 23, 2012 at 7:13 pm

    In my previous years being a teaching assistant for a systematic theology course at a school I attend, one of the first things that students often ask me when we head into Christology is what or who actually suffered.

    I would have to say that the divine nature cannot suffer even if Christ is fully both God and human. Certainly all orthodox Christians would agree that Christ suffered genuinely as a human being, but the sticking point is how is his divinity affected.

    I would have to go with the majority of Christians here and say God, because of who he is, cannot suffer in any way. It goes against the historic Christian position on who God is.

  46. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 7:37 pm

    Jed,

    Thank you for the reference. I did read it and it’s very good. I especially like this (Horton, 248-249):

    “God delights in the works of his hands, in our fellowship with him, in our worship, and in the love and service we render to our neighbor. Yet God needs none of this for his own fulfillment. In fact, it is because he needs nothing that the love he shows to creatures is creative. It is not because God lacks emotion that he loves in freedom, but because he does not lack anything. God does feel, but not as one who depends on the world for his joy. God responds to our sorrows with compassion, to our sin with anger, and to our obedience with delight. Yet he does so as a generous rather than as a needy love.

    God gives life but does not receive life; the world depends on God, but God does not depend on the world. Similarly, we can say that God is affected by us but is not determined in his being, will, or actions by us. God freely allows us to affect him, although even our affecting action is comprehended in God’s eternal counsel.”

    All of which I’m sure “Frame, Leithart, Baillie, Olson, et al” would gladly affirm, just as Horton (from the quotes I provided above) gladly affirms their words (through his express appreciation of Hodge):

    “The forms of expression, therefore, long prevalent in the Church, ‘the blood of God,’ ‘God the mighty maker died,’ etc., are in accordance with Scriptural usage.”

    I’d especially encourage you to read Frame’s Doctrine of God, ch. 26: The Self-Contained God.

    I must add this, Jed. If I am reading you rightly, this is really an ungenerous interpretation of Frame’s words (immediately following your words):

    Jed: “I think if you read Horton’s portion in Ch. 6 on impassibility you will see that it is quite distinct from Frame who asserts that we must somehow plead ignorance in light of a lack of sufficient data regarding the impassibility of the divine essence as it pertains to the Cross.”

    Frame: “What exactly does it mean for the Father to be ‘in’ the Son when he addressed the Son from heaven? These are difficult questions, and I have not heard any persuasive answers to them. But we must do justice to both the continuity and the discontinuity between the persons of the Trinity.”

    Are you going to tell me that you, or Horton, or anyone else, has found fully persuasive answers to these kinds of *fathomlessly* difficult questions?

  47. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2012 at 7:47 pm

    Jack: you’re shifting the the ground in your response to Jed here. The issue is not Trinity per se. Is Jed referencing Frame correctly? Does Frame plead lack of data vis-a-vis divine impassibility and the cross?

  48. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 8:10 pm

    No, I’m not shifting the ground at all. Yes, Frame does plead lack of data into the unfathomable mystery of “What exactly does it mean for the Father to be ‘in’ the Son when he addressed the Son from heaven?”

    But, no, that does not infer what Jed thinks it infers, i. e., that Frame’s understanding of God’s impassibility is deficient.

  49. jedpaschall said,

    March 23, 2012 at 8:29 pm

    Jack,

    I haven’t read Frame on impassibility, but where Horton presses for a full orbed defense of the orthodox position, it looks like Frame stops short and simply punts to mystery. I am not accusing Frame of saying anything unorthodox, but it seems like he want’s it both ways in this instance, to hold to some form of impassability, and then to say we can’t really say how or if God struggles. I If you can supply quotes indicating otherwise, I’ll be glad to revise my opinion. But as *vastly* difficult as these matters are, I think we should strive for as much precision and accuracy as reason allows. It seems like this is the role of theology – to probe into divine mysteries, humbly albeit, rather than defer and simply say “yep, that sure is mysterious.”, when revelation clearly invites us down a path of a fuller understanding of God.

  50. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 8:47 pm

    Jed,

    I can assure you that Frame does full justice to impassibility. When you say, “I haven’t read Frame on impassibility” that should give you pause before making the assertions you’ve made.

  51. Jack Bradley said,

    March 23, 2012 at 9:15 pm

    Lane #43, I will get back to you on this, probably sometime tomorrow.

  52. Reed Here said,

    March 23, 2012 at 9:25 pm

    Jack, no. 50, and your mere assurances should give us even greater pause.

    Jed’s is a reasonable question to ask of Frame, given the quotes you’ve provided. Maybe, since you’re the one who brought Frame into the discussion here, maybe you might provide some quotes, references, something a bit more substantial than your assurances?

  53. jedpaschall said,

    March 23, 2012 at 10:27 pm

    Sheesh Jack,

    Uncharitable? You quote Frame as if this represents him on impassibility, lump him as somehow sympathetic to everyone else you quote, and then take offense when I disagree. Would it be better if I didn’t interact with the quote at all? I simply disagree with the quote provided, and unless this isn’t the best representation on Frame, I probably disagree with him on the issue. If you feel like there is something I am missing, quote more, my reading list is such that I won’t get to Frame for a while. All I am saying is that Frame is falling short of a full defense of impassibility as it pertains to the Cross. It’s ambiguous to me, and I don’t get how you construe interacting with your quoted material as uncharitable unless you have misrepresented Frame.

  54. Jack Bradley said,

    March 24, 2012 at 12:16 am

    Reed & Jed,

    I’ll have some more to you tomorrow, but please remember what I’ve already posted, above, from Frame:

    “. . . the doctrine of impassibility should not be used to deny that God has emotions, or to deny that God the Son suffered real injury and death on the cross. But God in his transcendent nature cannot be harmed in any way, nor can he suffer loss to his being. In his eternal existence, ‘suffering loss’ could only mean losing some attribute, being defeated in his war with Satan, or otherwise failing to accomplish his eternal plan. Scripture assures us that none of these things will happen, and so they cannot happen. In this sense, God is impassible. . . God’s eternal nature is invulnerable, and that invulnerability is also precious to the believer.”

    And while I’ll have more in response to Lane, I’d like to post this, regarding impassibility and atonement.

    Charles Hodge, Vol. II http://www.ccel.org/ccel/hodge/theology2.txt

    “Here also, as in the case of the attributes of Christ, his person may
    be denominated from one nature when the act ascribed to Him belongs
    to the other nature. He is called God, the Son of God, the Lord of glory,
    when his delivering Himself unto death is spoken of. And He is called
    man, or the Son of man, when the acts ascribed to Him involve the
    exercise of divine power or authority. It is the Son of man who
    forgives sins; who is Lord of the Sabbath; who raises the dead; and who
    is to send forth his angels to gather his elect.

    Such being the Scriptural doctrine concerning the person of Christ, it
    follows that although the divine nature is immutable and impassible,
    and therefore neither the obedience nor the suffering of Christ was the
    obedience or suffering of the divine nature, yet they were none the
    less the obedience and suffering of a divine person. The soul of man
    cannot be wounded or burnt, but when the body is injured it is the man
    who suffers. In like manner the obedience of Christ was the
    righteousness of God, and the blood of Christ was the blood of God.

    It is to this fact that the infinite merit and efficiency of his work are
    due. This is distinctly asserted in the Scriptures. It is impossible,
    says the Apostle, that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away
    sin. It was because Christ was possessed of an eternal Spirit that He
    by the one offering of Himself hath perfected forever them who are
    sanctified. This is the main idea insisted upon in the Epistle to the
    Hebrews. This is the reason given why the sacrifice of Christ need
    never be repeated, and why it is infinitely more efficacious than those
    of the old dispensation. This truth has been graven on the hearts of
    believers in all ages. Every such believer says from his heart, ‘Jesus,
    my God, thy blood alone has power sufficient to atone.'”

  55. Nathanael said,

    March 24, 2012 at 12:49 am

    If a green young thing still in seminary (at WTS) may weigh in; here is what some theologians had to say about this:

    Charles Hodge: On the communion of attributes: “the person is the partaker of the attributes of both natures; so that whatever may be affirmed of either nature may be affirmed of the person. [This explains a multitude of passages.] These passages are of different kinds. 1. Those in which the predicate belongs to the whole person…Thus when Christ is called our Redeemer, our Lord, Our King, Prophet, or Priest, our Shepherd, etc., all these things are true of Him not as the Logos, or Son, nor as the man Christ Jesus, but as the God-man… 2. There are many passages in which the person is the subject but the predicate is true only of the divine nature, or of the Logos… 3. Passages in which the person is the subject, but the predicate is true only of the human nature. As when Christ said, ‘I thirst’…There are two classes of passages under this general head which are of special interest. First, those in which the person is designates from the divine nature when the predicate is true only of the human nature. ‘The church of God which He purchased with His blood.’ ‘The Lord of glory was crucified.’ The Son knows not the time when the final judgment is to come. The forms of expression, therefore, long prevalent in the Church, ‘the blood of God,’ ‘God the mighty maker died,’ etc. are in accordance with Scriptural usage. And if it is right to say ‘God died,’ it is right to say ‘He was born.’ The person born of the Virgin Mary was a divine person. He was the Son of God. It is, therefore, correct to say that Mary was the mother of God.” (Systematic Theology, Vol. II, pp. 392-393)

    Similarly, Bavinck says, “in the incarnation the two natures along with all their attributes were communicated to the one person and the one subject who can therefore be described with divine and human natures. Accordingly, one can say that the Son of God was born, suffered, and died (Acts 20:28; 1 John 3:13).” (Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 3, p. 308)

    Turretin explains the phrase “God is man” thus: “Christ (God according to the deity) is man according to humanity (and in turn). As God is said to have suffered (i.e., Christ who is God according to the deity suffered) not in the deity, but in the flesh.” (Institutes, 13.6.21)

    And finally, Thomas Aquinas: Summa theologiae, third part, question 16, article 4: “Can what belongs to human nature be said of God? It seems that it cannot…[various objections]…

    “On the contrary: [John] Damascene says in On Orthodox Faith 3.4 that God takes on what is peculiar to flesh, that is, its properties, since God is called suffering, and the God of glory was crucified.

    “Response: It should be said that there is a difference on this question between Nestorians and Catholics. For the Nestorians want to distinguish the words said of Christ in such a way that those that pertain to human nature are not said of God, nor are those which pertain to divine nature said of man. Hence Nestorius said if anyone tries to attribute to the Word of God any sufferings, let him be anathema. But of any names that can pertain to both natures, they predicate what belongs to both natures, lie the name ‘Christ’ or ‘lord.’ Hence they conceded that Christ was born of a virgin and was eternal, but not that God was born of a virgin or that man was eternal.

    “But Catholics held that such things said of Christ, whether according to the divine or human nature, can be said of both God and man. Hence Cyril said, if anyone divides between two persons or substances, that is, hypostases, what is said in the Gospels and Apostolic writings or what is said of Christ by the saints, or by Christ himself, and thinks that some of these should be applied to the man, others reserved for the Word alone, let him be anathema. The reason is this: since there is the same subject of both natures, the name of each nature stands for the subject. Therefore, whether he is called man or God it is the hypostasis of the divine and human nature that is meant, and the things of human nature can be said of God.

    “But note that in a proposition in which something is predicated of something else, we pay attention not only to that of which the predicate is said, but also to that which is predicated of it. Therefore, although the things that are predicated of Christ are not divided, they are distinguished with respect to that according to which both are predicated. For those things which are of the divine nature, are predicated of Christ according to the divine nature, and those things which are of human nature are predicated of him according to human nature.”

    Note that in the very next article, Aquinas says that those things which are of human nature cannot be said of the divine nature.

    Anyway, I’ve gone on for long enough. I hope that helps.

  56. Wyatt said,

    March 24, 2012 at 12:57 am

    Jack,

    It’s an exciting read. Highly recommended! Read with discernment.

  57. March 24, 2012 at 10:43 am

    While I understand what Horton is after, we certainly don’t need to go the route of essence/energies to address this issue. It has historically been solved with reference to a proper distinction between person (hypostasis) and nature (ousia).

    That the divine nature did not suffer isn’t just a Reformed, but more broadly an orthodox/catholic, essential. The divine nature cannot and did not suffer. And this is confessed by all orthodox Protestants, RCs, and EOs–at least those who have any idea what they’re talking about.

    But, remember, the *person* of Jesus of Nazareth is none other than the Son of God–the second person of the Trinity. There is not a second human *person* to suffer, and he didn’t become something other than a divine person after the hypostatic union. So, the person who suffered was a divine person. But he suffered precisely in his human nature. This is the Chalcedonian doctrine.

    This is why Paul in Acts could speak of “the church of God, which he purchased with his own blood.” It’s also what Chalcedon has in mind when is confesses Mary to be Theotokos.

    I second Prof. Strange’s comments above about Leo’s Tome. Here’s a selection that touches on this issue:

    “By reason of this unity of person, to be understood in both natures, the Son of Man is said to have come down from heaven when the Son of God took flesh from the Virgin from whom he was born. And again, the Son of God is said to have been crucified and buried, though he suffered these things not in the Godhead itself… but in the weakness of human nature.”

    In their Christology, the Reformed have generally followed Leo.

  58. michael said,

    March 24, 2012 at 1:53 pm

    Just a thought Lane about all that has been commented on already.

    This morning during my intimate quiet time of prayer I found my mind going back in here and pondering a lot of the comments above, including my own.

    There is a sense I can separate Christ and His humanity and Christ and His Eternal Being and the one suffering, feeling emotions, et al. while the other is in a continuous state of impassibility.

    What I am now having difficulty with thinking alone this line is the depth of experience when I experience the “fruit” of the Spirit.

    If God in His True essence and nature is in a state of impassibility, how do I account for the fruit of the Spirit, which seems to me points to something else about God?

    And then when I think about each of the three recorded times in the Gospels where clearly the Father uttered a voice that humans heard, there seemed to be emotion and feeling? Especially I note the time Jesus prayed and His prayer was answered and everyone else went “wow”, presumably Satan and all the trembling demons and all the Hosts of Heaven, too:

    Joh 12:27 “Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.
    Joh 12:28 Father, glorify your name.” Then a voice came from heaven: “I have glorified it, and I will glorify it again.”
    Joh 12:29 The crowd that stood there and heard it said that it had thundered. Others said, “An angel has spoken to him.”
    Joh 12:30 Jesus answered, “This voice has come for your sake, not mine.
    Joh 12:31 Now is the judgment of this world; now will the ruler of this world be cast out.
    Joh 12:32 And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.”

  59. Jack Bradley said,

    March 24, 2012 at 2:43 pm

    Lane wrote: “If God suffered on the cross, then God died on the cross. I, for one, cannot go there.”

    Lane, please excuse this somewhat lengthy post. I do want to seriously address your concern about the language of God suffering and dying.

    Roger Olsen: “The question is how Jesus Christ could accomplish the work of salvation if only his body or flesh was truly human and the divine Logos—the Son of God—remained, in every sense, immutable and impassible in His death. Is this then a real incarnation? Did the Logos actually experience birth, suffering and death?”

    I think this really is the question of Christology: How can the unity of the person of Christ as the God-man be preserved if the two natures are kept so distinct on the cross (and by logical extension, in the incarnation)?

    So when you write: “I believe that the answer is that His divine nature sustained His human nature, but did not itself suffer” I ask this question, through Olsen:

    “What is the point of an incarnation if the Son of God is the one and only person and takes to himself a full and complete human nature but remains entirely and completely untouched and unaffected by the humanness? Is that, then, really an incarnation? Was not the victory of the doctrine of the hypostatic union a hollow one if it is [so] interpreted?”

    I think it must, necessarily, come down to those four most fathomless words in all of human history: “The Word became flesh”. The divine Son did not come simply “in” man, as in adoptionist christologies; He came “as” man. The Word BECAME flesh: Hypostatic Union. And the Word remains flesh—for all eternity.

    If atonement is to be real, it must be the work of the God-man, God and man in hypostatic union, not merely God “in” man but God “as” man. As Leithart asks:

    “Does Jesus suffer on the cross as a shell of a man abandoned by His better, divine half, or is God dying? And, if the latter, whatever could that mean? . . . Bowing to Scripture, the Church said: God the Son, wholly eternally equal to the Father, took on flesh, God was born, God suffered human hunger and thirst, God took the lash and the spitting on His own flesh, and God died in that flesh on the cross.”

    John Stott helps us further in understanding this language. (Lane, I think you’ll appreciate his concern that we carefully frame this language, as Leithart carefully framed it.)

    Stott, The Cross of Christ, pp. 153ff:

    “’God dying for man’, wrote P. T. Forsyth, ‘I am not afraid of that phrase; I cannot do without it.’

    . . . It was ‘God himself’ giving himself for us. . . Similarly, Bishop Stephen Neill wrote: ‘. . . the crucifixion of Jesus. . . is in some way, as Christians have believed, the dying of God himself. . .’ And hymns of popular devotion have echoed it, like this phrase from Charles Wesley’s ‘And can it be’: Amazing love! How can it be, that Thou, my God, should’st die for me.

    The reason why both scholarly and simple Christians felt able to use this kind of language is of course that Scripture permits it. When the apostles wrote of the cross, they often indicated by a tell-tale expression who it was who died there and gave it its efficacy. Thus, he who humbled himself even to death on a cross was none other than he who ‘being in very nature God’ made himself nothing in order to become human and die (Phil. 2:6-8). It was ‘the Lord of glory’ whom the rulers of this age crucified (I Cor. 2:8). And the blood by which the robes of the redeemed have been washed clean is that of the Lamb who shares the centre of God’s throne (Rev. 5:6, 9; 7:9). Moreover, the logic of the letter to the Hebrews requires us to say that it is God who died. It plays on the similarity between a ‘covenant’ and a ‘will’. The terms of a will come into force only after the death of the testator. So he who makes promises in his will has to die before the legacies can be received. Since, then, the promises in question are God’s promises, the death must be God’s death (Heb. 9:15-17)

    There is one other verse which we must not overlook. It occurs in Paul’s farewell speech at Miletus to the elders of the Ephesian church. The flock over which the Holy Spirit has made them overseers and shepherds, he says, is nothing less than ‘the church of God, which he bought with his own blood’ (Acts 20:28). . . It is God’s church. God’s Spirit has appointed them elders over it, and the price paid for its purchase is actually ‘God’s blood’—an almost shocking phrase. . .

    In spite of this biblical justification, however, no verse specifically declares that ‘God himself’ died on the cross. Scripture bears witness to the deity of the person who gave himself for us, but it stops short of the unequivocal affirmation that ‘God died’. The reasons for this are not far to seek. First, immortality belongs to God’s essential being (‘God. . . alone is immortal’, I Tim. 6:16), and therefore he cannot die. So he became man, in order to be able to do so: ‘Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil’ (Heb. 2:14).

    . . . An over emphasis on the sufferings of God on the cross may mislead us either into confusing the persons of the Trinity and denying the eternal distinctness of the Son, like the Modalists or Patripassians, or into confusing the natures of Christ, and denying that he was one person in two natures, like the Monophysites or Theopaschites.

    . . . it seems permissible to refer to God suffering on the cross. For if God could be born, why could he not also die? The value of these expressions is that they eliminate the possibility of thinking of Jesus as an independent third party.

    . . . Our substitute, then, who took our place and died our death on the cross, was neither Christ alone (since that would make him a third party thrust in between God and us), nor God alone (since that would undermine the historical incarnation), but God in Christ, who was truly and fully God and man.”

    . . . For in giving his Son he was giving himself. This being so, it is the Judge himself who in holy love assumed the role of the innocent victim, for in and through the person of his Son he himself bore the penalty which he himself inflicted. As Dale put it, ‘the mysterious unity of the Father and the Son rendered it possible for God at once to endure and to inflict penal suffering.’ (Dale, Atonement, p. 393) There is neither harsh injustice nor unprincipled love for Christological heresy in that; there is only unfathomable mercy. For in order to save us in such a way as to satisfy himself, God through Christ substituted himself for us. Divine love triumphed over divine wrath by divine self-sacrifice.

    . . . the righteous, loving Father humbled himself to become in and through his only Son, flesh, sin and a curse for us, in order to redeem us without compromising his own character. . . The biblical gospel of atonement is of God satisfying himself by substituting himself for us.

    The concept of substitution may be said, then, to lie at the heart of both sin and salvation. For the essence of sin is man substituting himself for God, while essence of salvation is God substituting himself for man.”

  60. Jack Bradley said,

    March 24, 2012 at 2:56 pm

    One correction: “There is neither harsh injustice nor unprincipled love NOR Christological heresy in that”

  61. michael said,

    March 24, 2012 at 3:24 pm

    Jack,

    your flow of reasoning and those you publish with it remind me of something that has always struck me as odd since the first time I read it, yet, we are commissioned to do it nevertheless.

    Tell me, how does on preach the unsearchable riches of Christ?

    It seems to me Paul the Apostle to even put that on the page (Eph. 3:8) for our learning to preach, too, must have thought of that verse I quoted from Ecclesiastes (Eccl 3:11)?

    My simple mind can grasp the things that are knowable and searchable, but to not be able to comprehend eternity or what cannot be known about Christ, that that can be known as unsearchable, gives me pause.

    I, like so many others, I suppose, who are reading all these comments being published in here, am thrilled to joyous exaltation of unspeakable joy and peace yearning, too, for the full knowledge of the Gift of His Eternal Glory in Christ while believing this by the power of the Holy Spirit!

    1Pe 1:8 Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory,
    1Pe 1:9 obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls.
    1Pe 1:10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully,
    1Pe 1:11 inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.
    1Pe 1:12 It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look.

  62. michael said,

    March 24, 2012 at 3:26 pm

    Ooops!

    Tell me, how does one preach the unsearchable riches of Christ?

  63. ben inman said,

    March 24, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Mr. Baggins,

    My dissertation in part addresses this question in Turretin’s Elenctica and how he describes Christ’s death from the vantage point of theology proper. In fact, it was this very question that chased me reluctantly into writing on Turretin. My work basically connects the dots between theology proper, covenant and intra-reformed controversies in the Elenctica. There is a loaner copy in Colorado that could be mailed to you instead of me, if you were interested. Like you don’t have enough books to read.

    Sorry its not in paperback. Negotiations broke down when I realized they were serious about not including the soundtrack.

    bti

  64. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 25, 2012 at 8:13 am

    Ben:

    That sounds fascinating and I would like to get a copy for our Library. Is the dissertation from WTS? Are you the brother of Jonathan? If so, please greet him from me.

  65. ben inman said,

    March 25, 2012 at 9:08 pm

    Alan,
    Yes, yes, and I will.

    bti

  66. Sean Gerety said,

    March 26, 2012 at 1:02 pm

    Lane writes:

    “If God suffered on the cross, then God died on the cross. I, for one, cannot go there.”

    In response Jack quotes Leithart:

    As Leithart asks:

    “Does Jesus suffer on the cross as a shell of a man abandoned by His better, divine half, or is God dying? And, if the latter, whatever could that mean? . . . Bowing to Scripture, the Church said: God the Son, wholly eternally equal to the Father, took on flesh, God was born, God suffered human hunger and thirst, God took the lash and the spitting on His own flesh, and God died in that flesh on the cross.”

    We also see in Scripture that Jesus was ignorant of some things and grew in wisdom. Is the Second Person ignorant of anything? Does He grow in wisdom? According to Leithart and some others evidently He does. I’m guessing Leithart has little problem with saying that Mary is God’s mother too, but why should anyone follow Leithart?

    In my view, this discussion, and ones like it, highlight a central weakness in the historic Christological understanding. For a solution that stays within the bounds of historic definitions I recommend Thomas Morris’ two-mind theory in The Logic of God Incarnate. IMO Morris falters in his understanding of “person.” To address this I recommend Gordon Clark’s monographs on the Trinity and the Incarnation. IMO those who say that God dies, suffers and emotes are fashioning God in the likeness of man. But that’s the direction some seem to be heading. At least those like Lane who hold to the traditional understanding attempted to differentiate Christ’s two nature, even if we ended up with a nature and not a person dying on the cross. That is certainly preferable to some of these other theologians cited in this thread who end up destroying God.

  67. Nathanael said,

    March 26, 2012 at 4:18 pm

    Against Sean Gerety I would reiterate the Stott quote brought up earlier by Jack Bradley:

    “The reason why both scholarly and simple Christians felt able to use this kind of language is of course that Scripture permits it.” [See Phil. 2:6-8; 1 Cor. 2:8; Rev. 5:6, 9; 7:9; Heb. 9:15-17; Acts 20:28.]

    As I pointed out in my rather extensive quotations from classic theologians above, saying “God died on the cross” (cf. 1 Cor. 2:8) and “Mary is the Mother of God” has been affirmed (though carefully qualified) by orthodox theologians throughout the history of the church. (See my previous quotations.)

    I would be very, very hesitant before I disagreed with the combined witness of Cyril of Alexandria (see 2nd and 3rd letter to Nestorius), the Council of Ephesus, Leo the Great (see Leo’s Tome), the Council of Chalcedon, Maximus the Confessor, the Second and Third Councils of Constantinople, John of Damascus, Thomas Aquinas, John Calvin, John Owen, Francis Turretin, Charles Hodge, W. G. T. Shedd, and Herman Bavinck (to name a few).

    I should also note that none of these theologians denied divine simplicity, divine immutability, or divine impassibility.

  68. Jack Bradley said,

    March 26, 2012 at 9:03 pm

    Well said, Nathanael.

    Sean, please tell me you’re not serious:

    “even if we ended up with a nature and not a person dying on the cross.”

  69. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 26, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    I would say that Mr. Gerety’s assertion–“even if we ended up with a nature and not a person dying on the cross–is in keeping with Gordon H. Clark’s teaching in his book on the Incarnation.

    This is what happens to theology in which reason is used magisterially and not ministerially. In such cases, because there is a refusal to affirm God’s incomprehensibility (which the Westminster Confession affirms time and again), revelation is “smoothed out” according to some “reasoned out” philosophical scheme: the Bible’s sharp edges are lopped off to fit some dogmatic Procrustean bed.

  70. Jack Bradley said,

    March 26, 2012 at 11:47 pm

    Alan,

    I find it refreshing that both Horton (The Christian Faith) and Frame (The Doctrine of God), conclude their respective sections on impassibility with virtually the same quote from Warfield. I’ll go with Horton’s:

    “. . . it is worth concluding our consideration of this attribute with a lengthy quote from the ‘lion of Princeton,’ B. B. Warfield. Philosophers of the Absolute tell us, Warfield says, ‘that God is, by the very necessity of his nature, incapable of passion, incapable of being moved by inducements from without; that he dwells in holy calm and unchangeable blessedness, untouched by human sufferings or human sorrows for ever.’

    Warfield replies to this contention:

    ‘Let us bless God that it is not true. God can feel; God does love. We have scriptural warrant for believing that. . . God has reached out loving arms and gathered into his own bosom that forest of spears which otherwise had pierced ours. But is not this gross anthropomorphism? We are careless of names: it is the truth of God. And we decline to yield up the God of the Bible and the God of our hearts to any philosophical abstraction. . . let us rejoice that our God has not left us by searching to find him out. Let us rejoice that he has plainly revealed himself to us in his Word as a God who loves us, and who, because he loves us, has sacrificed himself for us.’” (Warfield, The Person and Work of Christ, pp. 570-571)

  71. Jack Bradley said,

    March 27, 2012 at 12:51 am

    I earlier posted this (first) paragraph from Shedd, but I think the one following it is just as important.

    Shedd, Dogmatic Theology, pp. 650-651:

    “It would be improper to say, ‘God’s nature died’ because this can have but one meaning. But it is proper to say ‘God died’ because this may mean either ‘God’s nature’ or the ‘God-man’–either unincarnate or incarnate God, either the Logos or Jesus Christ. It would be proper to speak of the blood of Immanuel. But Immanuel means ‘God with us.’

    The humanity assumed by the Logos is the Logos’s or God’s humanity; just as the body is the soul’s body. When, therefore, the humanity suffers, it is as proper to say that it is ‘God’s suffering’ as it is when the body suffers, to say that is the ‘soul’s suffering’—not meaning, thereby, the suffering of the soul considered separately as an immaterial substance, but of the soul as put for the total person. We speak of ‘the blood of souls’ because the soul is united with a body that bleeds. Similarly, Scripture speaks of ‘the blood of God’ because God is united with a humanity that has blood.”

  72. jedpaschall said,

    March 27, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    Jonathan,

    While I understand what Horton is after, we certainly don’t need to go the route of essence/energies to address this issue. It has historically been solved with reference to a proper distinction between person (hypostasis) and nature (ousia).

    That the divine nature did not suffer isn’t just a Reformed, but more broadly an orthodox/catholic, essential. The divine nature cannot and did not suffer. And this is confessed by all orthodox Protestants, RCs, and EOs–at least those who have any idea what they’re talking about.

    I somehow missed this comment, I wish I had responded earlier, but if you by chance are still following this thread hopefully you can respond. You do bring up a good point here, that impassibility, along with the other incommunicable attributes do not require the essence/energies distinction for an orthodox articulation. However, I think Horton wisely utilizes the distinction, borrowing from Eastern Orthodoxy, because the West more so than the East has struggled with maintaining the doctrine of impassibility and the Person of Christ, especially as it pertains to the cross. This is how we end up with less than careful assertions of “the blood of God” or “God died at the Cross”.

    All the essence/energies distinction does is give descriptive language to the overall Creator/creature distinction and its import to how we do theology (archetypal vs. ectypal). God in his essence or nature (ousia) is distinct but not separate from God as he is revealed in the Persons or energies. Obviously energies are more than just a Person, but they do describe how the Persons of the Trinity are revealing themselves and acting in creation, especially toward man in salvation-history. I would simply call it a helpful, not absolute necessary distinction, in clarifying how God can be both impassable, yet affected and effecting in history in his Person. So, while Jesus in his Divine essence/nature was impassable, His Divine Person does experience what happens on the cross. This is helpful in clarifying, God did not die, nor did he in his essence bleed, how could he? Rather he remains impassable in his essence, yet in his Person experiences the brunt of the cross. But it is not as if the Divine energies and human nature are experiencing the cross in exactly the same way, because while the human nature is susceptible to death, the Divine is not.

    So while the essence/energies distinction doesn’t feature prominently in Reformed Christology, it is not as if the distinction is of no use in articulating orthodoxy in this respect. I know Horton has received some criticism for the distinction, but as the Leithart quotes (and others) indicate sometimes otherwise fine theologians seem to blur the doctrine of impassibility with respect to Christology. Anyway, if you happen to read this, I’d be happy to hear your response.

  73. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 27, 2012 at 6:16 pm

    To add one more boundary-marker: Athanasius argued against Arius on the ground that if Jesus were not fully God, he could not accomplish redemption for the sins of all.

    Even the very creation broke silence at His behest and, marvelous to relate, confessed with one voice before the cross, that monument of victory, that He Who suffered thereon in the body was not man only, but Son of God and Savior of all. The sun veiled his face, the earth quaked, the mountains were rent asunder, all men were stricken with awe. These things showed that Christ on the cross was God, and that all creation was His slave and was bearing witness by its fear to the presence of its Master…

    We have seen that to change the corruptible to incorruption was proper to none other than the Savior Himself, Who in the beginning made all things out of nothing; that only the Image of the Father could re-create the likeness of the Image in men, that none save our Lord Jesus Christ could give to mortals immortality, and that only the Word Who orders all things and is alone the Father’s true and sole-begotten Son could teach men about Him and abolish the worship of idols But beyond all this, there was a debt owing which must needs be paid; for, as I said before, all men were due to die. Here, then, is the second reason why the Word dwelt among us, namely that having proved His Godhead by His works, He might offer the sacrifice on behalf of all, surrendering His own temple to death in place of all, to settle man’s account with death and free him from the primal transgression. In the same act also He showed Himself mightier than death, displaying His own body incorruptible as the first-fruits of the resurrection.

    — Athan., On the Incarnation of the Word, 4.19, 20

  74. Nathanael said,

    March 27, 2012 at 7:34 pm

    I would just like to point out once again that “the blood of God” and “God died at the Cross” are both explicitly biblical phrases (Acts 20:28 and 1 Cor. 2:8, respectively). The question is, how are to square these with the divinity of Christ, which is immortal (hence incapable of death) and incorporeal (hence incapable of having blood), not to mention impassible, immutable, omnipresent, and most simple.

    The orthodox, Chalcedonian answer has been that, because of the incarnation, we can attribute to the one person, the one subsistence of Christ any of the attributes of ether nature. Further, the human nature of Christ does not have its own subsistence but subsists in the divine person. However, it is not legitimate to attribute to the divine nature human properties or vice versa.

    Hence, it is legitimate to day “God died on the cross” because a divine person did die on the cross; he died according to his humanity. So also we can say God suffered on the cross because Christ was God and suffered according to his humanity. However, it is not legitimate to say the divine nature suffered on the cross because it is incapable of suffering. This is why Cyril of Alexandria speaks of the “impassible suffering” of God on the cross.

    If you want to read something good on the subject the very best things I have read are the relevant sections in Francis Turretin’s Institutes, Thomas Aquinas’ Summa, and John of Damascus’ On the Orthodox Faith. Also most excellent (and very short) is Cyril’s little book On the Unity of Christ.

  75. Nathanael said,

    March 27, 2012 at 7:39 pm

    Here are the 12 Anathemas of Cyril that were affirmed by the Council of Ephesus in 431 AD (and subsequently reaffirmed by Chalcedon):

    1. If anyone will not confess that the Emmanuel is very God, and that therefore the Holy Virgin is the Mother of God, inasmuch as in the flesh she bore the Word of God made flesh [as it is written, “The Word was made flesh”] let him be anathema.

    2. If anyone shall not confess that the Word of God the Father is united hypostatically to flesh, and that with that flesh of his own, he is one only Christ both God and man at the same time: let him be anathema.

    3. If anyone shall after the [hypostatic] union divide the hypostases in the one Christ, joining them by that connexion alone, which happens according to worthiness, or even authority and power, and not rather by a coming together, which is made by natural union: let him be anathema.

    4. If anyone shall divide between two persons or subsistences those expressions which are contained in the Evangelical and Apostolical writings, or which have been said concerning Christ by the Saints, or by himself, and shall apply some to him as to a man separate from the Word of God, and shall apply others to the only Word of God the Father, on the ground that they are fit to be applied to God: let him be anathema.

    5. If anyone shall dare to say that the Christ is a Theophorus [that is, God-bearing] man and not rather that he is very God, as an only Son through nature, because “the Word was made flesh,” and “hath a share in flesh and blood as we do:” let him be anathema.

    6. If anyone shall dare say that the Word of God the Father is the God of Christ or the Lord of Christ, and shall not rather confess him as at the same time both God and Man, since according to the Scriptures, “The Word was made flesh”: let him be anathema.

    7. If anyone shall say that Jesus as man is only energized by the Word of God, and that the glory of the Only-begotten is attributed to him as something not properly his: let him be anathema.

    8. If anyone shall dare to say that the assumed man ought to be worshipped together with God the Word, and glorified together with him, and recognised together with him as God, and yet as two different things, the one with the other (for this “Together with” is added [i.e., by the Nestorians] to convey this meaning); and shall not rather with one adoration worship the Emmanuel and pay to him one glorification, as [it is written] “The Word was made flesh”: let him be anathema.

    9. If any man shall say that the one Lord Jesus Christ was glorified by the Holy Ghost, so that he used through him a power not his own and from him received power against unclean spirits and power to work miracles before men and shall not rather confess that it was his own Spirit through which he worked these divine signs; let him be anathema.

    10. Divine Scripture says, that Christ became High Priest and Apostle of our confession, and that he offered himself for us a sweet-smelling savour to God the Father. Whosoever shall say that it is not the divine Word himself, when he was made flesh and had become man as we are, but another than he, a man born of a woman, yet different from him, who is become our Great High Priest and Apostle; or if any man shall say that he offered himself in sacrifice for himself and not rather for us, whereas, being without sin, he had no need of offering or sacrifice: let him be anathema.

    11. Whosoever shall not confess that the flesh of the Lord giveth life and that it pertains to the Word of God the Father as his very own, but shall pretend that it belongs to another person who is united to him [i.e., the Word] only according to honour, and who has served as a dwelling for the divinity; and shall not rather confess, as we say, that that flesh giveth life because it is that of the Word who giveth life to all: let him be anathema.

    12. Whosoever shall not recognize that the Word of God suffered in the flesh, that he was crucified in the flesh, and that likewise in that same flesh he tasted death and that he is become the first-begotten of the dead, for, as he is God, he is the life and it is he that giveth life: let him be anathema.

  76. jedpaschall said,

    March 27, 2012 at 8:33 pm

    Nathaniel,

    I’ll read the rest of the comments in a moment, but I wouldn’t grant this:

    I would just like to point out once again that “the blood of God” and “God died at the Cross” are both explicitly biblical phrases (Acts 20:28 and 1 Cor. 2:8, respectively).

    You are extrapolating these phrases from these passages, these phrases do not exist in Scripture. The textual witness on Acts 20 also refers to the “church of our Lord”, and Paul is employing a run-on sentence not atypical for the conventions of an actual speech that was given impromptu (more than likely). The reference to the crucified “Lord of Glory” in 1 Cor. 2 does not necessarily refer to God’s death at the cross, you are interpreting the verses to say this. I am not saying that you are without precedent for doing so, as others have done likewise, but it is not as if these interpretations are universally held. Just want to clarify this.

  77. Jack Bradley said,

    March 28, 2012 at 12:23 am

    I find Horton helpful regarding “the blood of God”. The Christian Faith, p. 468:

    “‘The Word became flesh’ (Jn 1:14). The verb ‘became’ [egeneto] here does not entail any change in the essence of the Son. His deity was not converted into our humanity. Rather, he assumed our human nature. . . Each nature is entirely preserved in its distinctness yet in and as one person.”

    p. 470: “The blood that he brings into the heavenly sanctuary to atone for his brothers and sisters is human (Heb 9:11-10:18), yet because of the unity of his person it can be called the blood of God (Ac 20:28).”

    p. 474: “. . . Acts 20:28 (according to the best manuscript traditions) says that the church was purchased by the blood of God. . .”

  78. jedpaschall said,

    March 28, 2012 at 2:23 am

    Zing! Good find Jack. Without trying to defend an untenable position, I went back and did as much text critical homework as I could (and could understand), and I’ll tentatively say that what you and Nathaniel (and Horton) are arguing with respect to Acts 20:28 is more than likely the best reading over and against my prior comments.

    That said, if you run some searches in online journals, periodicals, and blogs dealing with textual criticism, you will find that the reading “his own blood” is highly unique conceptually and textually in Lukan literature. Some have proposed, along with the more reputable manuscript sources that the better rendering would be “blood of his Own”, referring to the blood of Christ, as opposed to the blood of God. This isn’t to separate the two natures of Christ, but it appears that the syntax does allow for both readings. My own shaky understanding of Greek gives me pause in making a call in any direction – except to say even though contested there is a good chance I had it wrong here.

    But assuming for the sake of argument that a) I had it wrong with respect to this reading on Acts 20 (not so sure about 1 Cor. 2 though), what are we speaking of with respect to the blood of God with respect to Christology and impassibility? First, like Horton asserts (echoing Jeff’s citation of Athanasius), it has everything to do with Christ’s ability as the God-man to absorb the wrath of God and pay for our sins. I am certain that Horton would classify this as God in Christ acting from his energies or Person. God in his essence, in his nature does not bleed, as this would not only affect impassibility, but also simplicity as God in his essence cannot be both Spirit and flesh. So we can say properly that God bleeds in the person of Christ, as the human and divine natures are inseparable in his Person. But without drawing proper distinctions we end up affirming that God in his essence bled, and died.

    Mind you, I am not accusing you of holding to this, but some of the quotations you provided earlier were less than clear on the matter. But, your initial quotations (comment #7) of Leithart and Olson (who appears to defend Luther’s rejection of impassibility with respect to Christology), are not exactly conceptual equivalents to Horton on the matter. So, I’ll acknowledge that I more than likely overstated my case with respect to Acts 20, with the qualification that the interpretation on the textual issues is not unanimous (just look at how it’s dealt with in different English translations). With that in mind can you see why I am curious as to where you stand on the issue of impassibility- you go from affirming Leithart and Olson to saying that Horton is helpful, but I am not sure that Horton is at all in agreement with either of these. You are great at finding sources, and don’t think that I am anything less than appreciative of this, but could you clarify how you as opposed to another source hold these three (among others) up as helpful on the matter of Christology?

    This is why I brought the essence/energies distinction into the discussion to begin with, because it is helpful in drawing precise distinctions. As Horton discusses, especially in the West we have struggled with falling short of articulating clearly the difference between the nature of God and his Persons, and what this entails on the stage of salvation-history. If we overstate what God is doing in his energies and conflate this with his essence, especially as it pertains to Christology we end up in tending toward the heresy of Eutychianism on one side; and if we understate the God’s ability to sustain a wide range of experiences in his Person as an actor in salvation history as an effort to somehow defend his essence, we end up in the heresy of Nestorianism on the other. In this respect Leithart is right, Christology is a risky enterprise fraught with difficulties on all sides.

  79. Nathanael said,

    March 28, 2012 at 8:54 am

    Let me be very clear here; Christ purchased the church with his blood. Christ is God (the second person of the Trinity) and so the blood was the blood of God. However, this does NOT deny divine impassibility because Christ (who is God with us) suffered according to his humanity. Because both human and divine attributes can be attributed to the one person we can (with Scripture) make the paradoxical statement that on the cross God suffered impassively.

    To say that Christ suffered on the cross but God did not suffer on the cross or Christ bled on the cross but God did not bleed on the cross is Nestorianism, pure and simple. It is Nestorianism because it makes two Christs; a human Christ who bleeds and a divine Christ who does not. However, the orthodox and true belief is that one and the same Christ was both God and man. So the sufferings of his human nature were his sufferings. Again, this does NOT mean that the divine nature suffered because the sufferings of the one Christ were according to his humanity; Christ suffered in the flesh.

    To finish things off with a quote from Cyril of Alexandria:
    “Whosoever shall not recognize that the Word of God suffered in the flesh, that he was crucified in the flesh, and that likewise in that same flesh he tasted death and that he is become the first-begotten of the dead, for, as he is God, he is the life and it is he that giveth life: let him be anathema.”

  80. Nathanael said,

    March 28, 2012 at 10:04 am

    By way of clarification let me post an excellent quote from Justinian (yes, the Byzantine Emperor):

    “Moreover, we confess that the same Only-begotten Son of God, the Divine Logos who was before the ages, who was begotten, not made, of the Father in a timeless manner, in these last days for us and for our salvation came down from heaven and was incarnate of the Holy
    Spirit and the holy, glorious Theotokos and ever-Virgin Mary, and was born of her. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, One of the Holy Trinity, consubstantial to God the Father in his divinity, and consubstantial to us in his humanity. The same One in the flesh is passible, and in his divinity he is impassible. For he who took upon himself suffering and death is not someone other than the Logos, but the impassible and eternal Logos of God himself submitted to being born in human
    flesh, and he accomplished all things.”

    (As an aside, the one bit of this I don’t agree with is that Mary was “ever-virgin,” but I agree with the rest.)

  81. Jack Bradley said,

    March 28, 2012 at 10:37 am

    “Leithart is right, Christology is a risky enterprise fraught with difficulties on all sides.”

    Jed, this is so true. We’re all trying to navigate through the difficulties. Leithart’s comments are not an attempt to be exhaustive, coming as they are from the preface of his book.

    This is not exhaustive either, but all I have time for just now. I think it may be helpful in understanding Acts 20:28, et al.

    Frame, Doctrine of God, p. 702:

    “. . . the persons of the Trinity. Each exhausts the divine being; each bears all the divine attributes; indeed each is in the other two (circumincessio). So when we encounter one person, we are encountering the triune God. . . There is a real difference between the Son, praying in the garden to his Father, and the Father, hearing him in heaven. But both Son and Father belong to the rich complexity that is the divine essence, and both exhaust that essence.”

    John Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord, p. 120:

    “The act of redemption in which Christ offered Himself a sacrifice for sin was an act of His whole person. It was traceable to both natures, not
    to the human nature alone, nor to the divine. As man Christ could die, but only as God, could His death have infinite value to provide redemption for the sins of the whole world.”

  82. Sean Gerety said,

    March 28, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    Sean, please tell me you’re not serious:

    “even if we ended up with a nature and not a person dying on the cross.”

    Make no mistake I can say the same thing about some of your posts Jack. So are you saying the Second Person the Trinity died on the cross and that for a period of 3 days God existed in a bianity? Seems to be where you’re going, but I don’t want to put words in your mouth.

  83. Sean Gerety said,

    March 28, 2012 at 2:04 pm

    This is what happens to theology in which reason is used magisterially and not ministerially. In such cases, because there is a refusal to affirm God’s incomprehensibility (which the Westminster Confession affirms time and again), revelation is “smoothed out” according to some “reasoned out” philosophical scheme: the Bible’s sharp edges are lopped off to fit some dogmatic Procrustean bed.

    So was Lane using logic “magisterially” or “ministerially” when he said:

    “If God suffered on the cross, then God died on the cross. I, for one, cannot go there.”

    I cannot go there either. But I will go one step further by stating that the Van Tillian doctrine of incomprehensibility is neither biblical nor confessional and Dr. Strange’s comments highlight the grave danger Dr. Cal Beisner observed sometime ago in response to John Meuther and that it was a grave error to center the Creator/creature distinction in the area of epistemology instead of ontology where it belongs. This discussion of Christology merely highlights that danger where we have seminary profs advocating the abandonment of reason at critical points in our understanding of central doctrines and seemingly prefers the endless repeating of nonsense in its stead.

    For a fuller discussion of this issue, and a healthy dose of Dr. Beisner, see http://tinyurl.com/3ubqj3z .

  84. March 28, 2012 at 2:07 pm

    Jed,

    Thanks for catching my comment and taking the time to respond. I didn’t mean to say that the essence/energies distinction couldn’t be helpful if rightly articulated. (I do happen to like Horton on this.) What I wanted to point out was simply that, if one happens to object to the use of essence/energies, you can and must still say, in some sense, that “God suffered.” For the person who suffered was the Logos, full stop. Albeit he suffered in the qualified sense specifically of *in his humanity*, not in the divine nature, which is impassible.

    Peace,

    Jon

  85. March 28, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    In response to the other comments flying around here: The orthodox have always affirmed that reason is to be subordinated to Scripture in our theology. There were two groups that elevated reason over Scripture in the fourth century–they were the Sabellians and the Arians. Similarly, there were two groups who elevated reason over Scripture in the fifth century–they were the Nestorians and the Eutychians. Let’s not keep making those same mistakes all over again. Reason is guide. Tradition is help. Only Scripture is rule.

  86. michael said,

    March 28, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    Here’s something I have pondered parsing Christ dying on the Cross for the propitiation of our sins.

    Was it His Spirit/pneuma that was put to death?

    Was it His Soul/psuche that was put to death?

    Was it His Body/soma?

    Was it His Flesh/sarx?

    Clearly in Scripture Scripture ascribes Christ as Spirit, Soul, Body and flesh.

    Here is that part of Scripture that leads me to believe it is His Soul, Body and flesh that experienced cessation, but because death could not “hold” Him, He Himself, after laying Himself down, rose again to be elevated to that Eternal Seat of Glory and Honor that Is Him:

    1Jn 3:14 We know that we have passed out of death into life/zoe, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.
    1Jn 3:15 Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life/zoe abiding in him.
    1Jn 3:16 By this we know love, that he laid down his life/psuche for us, and we ought to lay down our lives/psuche for the brothers.

  87. Jack Bradley said,

    March 28, 2012 at 3:14 pm

    Very well said, Jonathan.

  88. Jack Bradley said,

    March 28, 2012 at 3:22 pm

    Sean, thanks for the link. Others will judge for themselves, but for me statements like this really don’t bolster the credibility of your theological acumen:

    “I could not fathom how any clear thinking Calvinist could possibly embrace Van Til‟s belief in biblical paradox, not to mention the contradictory doctrine of the well-meant offer advanced by John Murray (a position adopted as the majority position in the OPC following on the heels of the Clark-Van Til controversy and is just one of the many doctrinal aberrations resulting from Van Til‟s “fundamental assumption” concerning divine revelation).”

  89. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 29, 2012 at 1:18 am

    “The Bible alone is the Word of God,” I have heard it said. That’s what I was maintaining above, as with Jonathan: reason serves as guide, tradition as help, only Scripture is rule or canon. Thus we don’t lop off from Scripture what seems to us to contradict logic as we perceive it.

    Rather, we affirm the well-meant offer because God’s Word does, as well as what was entailed in the passion of our Lord as the God-man, because God’s Word does. All the doctrines of the ecumenical creeds and the Reformed Confessions employ reason ministerially and accurately reflect the teachings of the Word of God. The use of reason that is not always bowing to and in the service of revelation will run amok and distort the witness of the Word of God in the fashion pointed out by Jonathan.

  90. rfwhite said,

    March 29, 2012 at 7:46 am

    Kevin DeYoung has written a helpful essay on this topic. See his article, “Divine Impassibility and the Passion of Christ in the Book of Hebrews,” WTJ 68 (2006) 1:40-50. He concludes:
    “Those who argue that God suffers make many strong points in their favor. On the face of it, one of the most persuasive arguments is the one based on the sufferings of Christ. If Jesus Christ, very God of very God, suffered, how can we avoid the conclusion that God suffers? I have argued that in light of Hebrews, especially Heb 2:5–18, this argument does not hold.
    The passibility of God cannot be assumed from the passibility of Christ, first of all, because the nature of the incarnation implied some sort of “change”—in this case a temporary change of status (being made for a little while lower than the angels)—what we see in Jesus will not equal to what we see in God. The Son of God took on human flesh and blood to do that which he could not do as God, namely, suffer.
    Second, according to Cyril’s communication of idioms, the suffering that Jesus experienced cannot be predicated to his divine nature. Instead, we must understand that the Son of God in the incarnation was born, lived, and died as a man.
    Third, Christ’s sufferings were not revelational but eschatalogical. His sufferings tell us nothing about the eternal suffering heart of God and everything about the completion of the plan of salvation. The Son of God needed to be perfected through sufferings so that he might be qualified as our brother to be our faithful high priest. In this role, his conquering love destroys the devil, sets the captives free, and makes atonement for sin.
    Fourth, as one acquainted with human suffering, Jesus Christ can sympathize with us in our own suffering. As Christians we look not in the sky to a passible God for comfort, but in history to the suffering servant. God is not distant, aloof, or insensitive to our suffering. He loved us enough to send his Son to be like one of us, and he loves us enough to come near to us in the person of Jesus Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith.”

  91. paigebritton said,

    March 29, 2012 at 8:54 am

    I wonder about DeYoung’s fourth point; did the pre-Incarnation/pre-Passion saints lack comfort from their God because, historically, Christ had not yet suffered and could not “sympathize”? A unique thing happened in salvation history because the Servant suffered, but prior to that happening God was not “distant, aloof, or insensitive.”

    The contrast in Hebrews does not seem to be between “God before” and “God after” the historically located Passion, but between a hypothetical priestly Savior who was not truly man (and therefore could not know suffering) and the true priestly Savior who was really human (and therefore did know suffering).

  92. March 29, 2012 at 9:24 am

    Picking up on paigebritton’s point: Something like what Scott Oliphint has recently argued concerning God’s “covenantal properties” might be helpful here. According to Oliphint, when we see passages like God’s condescension to hear and answer his people in Exodus 3.7-8, we should see something like an “incarnation” principle in God’s covenantal dealings with his people even prior to the Son of God becoming man. The incarnation does in fact inform our understanding of who God is and how he dealt with his people even before the incarnation. It was a “change,” yes, but not a change in God’s nature or character, etc. The change was only in that God took to himself what he didn’t have before–a human nature–without losing anything of what he always was.

    The key with all this, again, is that we do not, nor can we ever, predicate suffering of the divine nature. It was a divine *person* who suffered *in his human nature*. The pre-incarnation point from Oliphint is that God takes covenantal properties to himself (which are distinct from his eternal/essential/necessary properties) in his dealings with his people even before the incarnation.

  93. Sean Gerety said,

    March 29, 2012 at 9:34 am

    I readily admit Jack that I lack your theological skill as I can’t infer an indicative meaning from something written in the imperative, even the command that every man repent and believe the Gospel. I don’t have the training that enables me to embrace the contradictory idea affirmed by Dr. Strange that God sincerely seeks the salvation of those whom He has from eternity determined not to save. Along with that theological neophyte, the late Gordon Clark, I do not say that God sincerely desires the salvation of the reprobate through the preaching of the gospel, but rather in the light of Scripture I affirm that “God seeks his own glory and justification in preparing the reprobate for their just damnation even through the preaching of the Gospel.”

    Further, I do lack the acumen of WSC prof Scott Clark who claims:

    Our faith is full of mystery of paradoxes to wit, the holy Trinity, the two natures and one person of Christ, divine sovereignty and human responsibility (who has flattened out that one but the anti-predestinarians?), the free offer, the true presence of Christ in the Supper, and means of grace (the Spirit operates through the foolishness of Gospel preaching) and that’s the short list.

    Unlike those he trains I don’t revel in the “mystery of paradoxes” which litters Clark’s faith and I assume your own. So when it comes to Christ’s suffering on the cross I do agree that the correct answer is that “His divine nature sustained His human nature, but did not itself suffer.” Beyond excellent arguments like the one offered by DeYoung above, I hold to a two-mind theory of the Incarnation. To quote Morris (who I can only hope posses at least some theological acumen):

    The divine mind of God the Son contained, but was not contained by, his earthly mind, or range of consciousness. That is to say, there was what can be called an asymmetric accessing relation between the two minds.

    God the Second Person is impassible because He is as immutable as the other two Persons of the Godhead.

  94. rfwhite said,

    March 29, 2012 at 9:57 am

    91 PB: In context (which is admittedly lacking from the citation above) DeYoung’s 4th point was not about a contrast (in Hebrews) between pre-Christ saints and post-Christ saints in regard to the former lacking comfort.

  95. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2012 at 10:42 am

    Paige (#91), actually it’s worth considering the significance of the temple language in John coupled with his account of the tearing of the veil.

    This is just the beginnings of thoughts along that line, but it strikes me as plausible that if OT saints’ faith was in the future coming of Christ, the fulfillment of shadows; then so also their comfort was in the future suffering servant, on whom the punishment for sins would finally be laid.

    Truly the OT law would have brought about significant discomfort.

    Thoughts?

  96. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 29, 2012 at 12:16 pm

    The old “I’m not smart enough to believe contradictory things” dodge is interesting coming from those who profess to believe that “the Bible alone is the Word of God.” We’re not asked, in believing God’s Word, to affirm anything contradictory.

    We are asked to believe it all, even if there are things hard to square with what we may assume that logic in this or that case demands (often large, gratuitous and unwarranted assumptions). The Arminian lops off parts of the Bible on that basis as does the hyper-Calvinist. Certainly the Arians, Apollinarians, Nestorians, and Eutycheans did.

    I am not smart enough to seek to trim the Word of God to my pre-conceived notions of what it should be. I prefer to take revelation for what it says and seek to receive and believe the whole counsel of God, understanding that it is in no ultimate sense contradictory, but also not amenable simply to what I can reason out and comprehend according to my own lights.

    The doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, for example, are not something that I reason out but take from revelation; these doctrines are certainly not irrational, but come from reason that is subdued by God and humbly receptive of HIs revelation.

    When we try to make them neatly conform to our rational categories we have to lop off some parts of Scripture that don’t seem to fit. Isn’t it better to say “We believe all the Word of God and confess it to contain no real contradictions, even though to our minds and our ordinary use of logic there may appear to be things that seem to contradict?” To me this is manifestly more simple and faithful than coming to the Word with a presupposition about logic or reason (that is not taught in the Bible nor assumed by the Bible) and making the Bible fit it.

    When one does this Procrustean exercise–make the Bible fit my system rather than my system fit the Bible–one always denies some teachings of the Word and ends up denying God’s sovereignty or man’s responsibility, God’s oneness or threeness, etc. There is a long line of those who do this, it is quite true, running back through the history of the church. But it is not a distinguished line, unless distinguished for a rationalism that trumps revelation.

  97. Sean Gerety said,

    March 29, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    I am not smart enough to seek to trim the Word of God to my pre-conceived notions of what it should be. I prefer to take revelation for what it says and seek to receive and believe the whole counsel of God, understanding that it is in no ultimate sense contradictory, but also not amenable simply to what I can reason out and comprehend according to my own lights.

    That’s very humble of you Alan, but how do you know that “it is in no ultimate sense contradictory”? You and other Van Tillians simply assert this to be the case and, I suppose, hope no one will challenge your conclusion. Further, you gloss over the underlying epistemological position that I’m confident you are more than familiar with that maintains that the “mystery of paradox” is central to a correct doctrine of Scripture where at various points of tension reason must be curbed or abandoned altogether (i.e., your solution to the problem of the Incarnation) and we are to have faith (not on the basis of Scripture mind you) that for God there are no contradictions; even though His Word is riddled with them at least to the minds of us poor human existents.

    The doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation, for example, are not something that I reason out but take from revelation; these doctrines are certainly not irrational, but come from reason that is subdued by God and humbly receptive of HIs revelation.

    It’s not humble to affirm that God is both one Person and three Persons or that God suffered and died on the cross. These things might be affirmed by some out of ignorance, but they are not biblically sound formulations. That’s why a biblical epistemology doesn’t end with the “mystery of paradoxes” but with the “consent of all the parts.” God has revealed truth to us so that we might understand, not bow to patently contradictory and incoherent nonsense parroted by those claiming “theological acumen” in some feigned (if not warped) act of Christian piety.

    When we try to make them neatly conform to our rational categories we have to lop off some parts of Scripture that don’t seem to fit.

    You accuse your opponents of lopping off parts of Scripture in order to conform to rational categories but who has done that except those who affirm the idea of biblical paradox? Actually, you aren’t so much lopping off as you are adding to Scripture by asserting two contradictory propositions are both true. So, seeing we’re talking rational categories you simply beg the question. Truth is, by definition non-contradictory and one valid inference from true premises cannot contradict any other true proposition. If an inferred conclusion (say, God is one Person), contradicts other Biblical teaching (say, God is three Persons), the inference must be invalid. Biblical teaching is non-contradictory (why I have to remind a seminary prof of this is, well, scandalous).. But the Vantilian method that you espouse assures us in advance that valid inferences from Scripture will eventually force us to deny other Biblical teaching. In your words, it requires us to “lop off some parts of Scripture that don’t seem to fit.” Could a rejection of the Confessional affirmations that all the parts of Scripture “consent” together, that is, logically cohere, and all valid inferences from Scripture are Scripture, be any clearer? I don’t see how, but I have seen how advocates of this epistemic scheme succeed in feigning humility while defending the indefensible.

    Isn’t it better to say “We believe all the Word of God and confess it to contain no real contradictions, even though to our minds and our ordinary use of logic there may appear to be things that seem to contradict?”

    No, it’s better to demonstrate that the Word of God contains no real contradictions as that is, at least per WCF 1.5, one of the central evidences that the Scriptures are the Word of God. There is nothing in Scripture where we are commanded to embrace contradictory doctrinal formulations while having faith that for God there are no contradictions (something we could not possibly know if the Scriptures were as you and other Vantilians claim they are).

    Jesus said the Scriptures cannot be broken so when we see Jesus growing in wisdom, suffering, and dying on a cross, while knowing the Second Person can do none of these things, we are invited to call upon the Holy Spirit who will bring us into “all truth.” We are to reason with God and wrestle with His Word; not rest in the “mystery of paradox.”

    To me this is manifestly more simple and faithful than coming to the Word with a presupposition about logic or reason (that is not taught in the Bible nor assumed by the Bible) and making the Bible fit it.

    Again, you beg the question. You accuse others of being unfaithful to the teachings of Scripture but you merely assert what you need to prove. IMO you can get away with this, and will continue to get away with this, because those who think themselves theologically astute have been schooled into the same epistemological school of thought.

    When one does this Procrustean exercise–make the Bible fit my system rather than my system fit the Bible–one always denies some teachings of the Word and ends up denying God’s sovereignty or man’s responsibility, God’s oneness or threeness, etc. There is a long line of those who do this, it is quite true, running back through the history of the church. But it is not a distinguished line, unless distinguished for a rationalism that trumps revelation.

    How many times can you beg the question in one post Alan? It is sad that Calvin and those who followed in his footsteps were once accused of being too logical (if such a thing were possible). I don’t think many calling themselves Reformed need to fear that label today. Of course, that doesn’t make the imposition of a faulty overarching Creator/creature distinction on epistemology any less crippling even to questions as central as the one Lane posed in his original post above.

  98. Sean Gerety said,

    March 29, 2012 at 1:49 pm

    Oops forgot to turn off a block quote. Perhaps one of the moderators can fix that.

  99. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    It does have a delightful Alice-in-Wonderland effect.

  100. Jeff Cagle said,

    March 29, 2012 at 3:28 pm

    Sean (#97):

    God has revealed truth to us so that we might understand, not bow to patently contradictory and incoherent nonsense parroted by those claiming “theological acumen” in some feigned (if not warped) act of Christian piety.

    Aren’t you going rather beyond the Confession at this point? “All things in Scripture are not alike plain in themselves, nor alike clear unto all…”

    It seems like you are claiming a kind of hyper-perspicuity — all of Scripture is given so that all may understand.

  101. paigebritton said,

    March 29, 2012 at 3:33 pm

    Alice ate the cookie. (But only a little of it.)

  102. paigebritton said,

    March 29, 2012 at 3:42 pm

    Jeff (#95),
    Yes, I thought about whether there is a parallel there with the future atonement for the OT saints by Christ. But I can’t get around the intimacy of the OT language of relationship between God and his chosen ones, particularly regarding God’s tender compassion. Just wondering whether knowing, experiencing, and trusting God as the Comforter was possible to an OT saint (I think it was!), and whether (or to what extent) Christians “have it better” because we have a high priest able to sympathize by virtue of embodied experience. Is this truly a New Covenant advancement on the Old? Maybe it’s a partial-continuity thing?
    Interesting to ponder, anyway.
    pb

  103. paigebritton said,

    March 29, 2012 at 3:51 pm

    Dr. White (#94),
    Thanks for the contextual orientation there. It just suddenly struck me that there might be implications for considering the experience of OT saints when contrasted with the Christian’s ability to turn to his sympathetic High Priest, whether DeYoung intended that contrast or not. Just wondering what we can say about the OT saints’ knowledge of God’s tender comfort, since they did not have the complete picture yet. It seems from the OT Scriptures that they did experience and believe in God’s compassionate concern for them, at least some of the time, making me wonder whether the point in Hebrews (about Jesus being able to sympathize) might not be something other than a New Covenant advancement on the Old.
    Paige B.

  104. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 29, 2012 at 5:02 pm

    Mr. Gerety, you seemed to have missed my attempt at humor in meeting your “I’m not smart enough to…” with one of my own. But never mind.

    You accuse me of petitio principii. How do you account for your assertion that truth is non-contradictory? I agree with you that truth is not contradictory. And I will not accuse you of question begging. But how do you know that your assertion is not “sound and fury, signifying nothing?” Because Jesus is Truth Incarnate (John 14:6) and He has told us that His Word is Truth (John 17:17). How do I know that Scripture does not contradict itself? Because it is Truth, and you yourself admit that truth is non-contradictory.

    I know, then, that anything that may appear to contradict is only an appearance, and, yes, I seek to work it out and harmonize it. But we do not harmonize in one direction like the Arminian or in another like the hyper-Calvinist. We must harmonize only in a way that properly reflects the whole of the Word and does not refuse to confess some truth because it violates the precommitment that we have to harmonizing in one direction. This is what you are doing, sir, and it is sophistry.

    Your approach makes the Scripture captive to your philosophical committments which are prior and not drawn from Scripture. Philosophy is in the service of theology and not the opposite. Rationalism or empiricism, either one, make Scripture their puppet and make it say what they will. The approach that I am promoting seeks to let Scripture set the plate, speak for itself, speak in all its fullness, speak things that may appear to contradict but do not as we continue to study and pray about them, not harmonize away in one direction because it does not fit our philosophical pre-commitments.

    I fully agree with the Confession as to the consent of all the parts. But there are more than a few parts that imply a free-offer and general benevolence on the part of God as well as electing love/grace and condemning wrath/reprobation. I don’t deal with this by saying “well, God really does not, in any sense, have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; He does not will, in any sense, that all would not perish,” and so forth. Well, He does desire all to come to the knoweldge of Himself. He does desire that we obey His Word, though we see people disobeying (and thus distinguish the decretive and the revealed will).

    What you abominate in my approach, I believe to be its glory–believing the whole Word of God, even though in its profundity, it alludes me, even as God does in the fullness of His person. You cannot divorce ontology and epistemology the way you do. The latter develops from and is related to the former. The two are entailed in each other. I have a meeting to run to, so I end with these thoughts.

  105. ackbeet said,

    March 30, 2012 at 6:13 am

    Sean, this is Adrian Keister. Lane’s my twin brother, and J. C. Keister is my father.

    Now, Lane’s a Van Tillian, and Dad’s a Clarkian. They’re both great at logic, so I’ve not been able to make much headway in the debate. I’m undecided. I’ve heard a very neat argument by Henry Krabbendam, that seems to take the best of both positions, but I can’t remember what his argument was. I do remember that his position clearly retained the Creator-creature distinction (which is what the Van Tillians accuse the Clarkians of losing), while also retaining something of the Clarkian certainty (which the Clarkians accuse the Van Tillians of never having).

    I have several basic comments on this discussion.

    1. I’ve been reading with great interest your debate with Dr. Strange, and there’s one thing going on that I think would be of great benefit if it got corrected. You’re using the word “paradox” in a way in which I, for one, am not used to it being used. Could you please define that word?

    2. Also, could you clarify if you think Clark believes that the fundamental epistemological starting-point is reason or the Holy Spirit convicting us that the Bible is true? It would seem to me that the Christian must start with the latter, because logic itself is rooted in the character of God, and logic comes to us through the Bible (you can get most if not all the methods of inference from the Bible in examples). I don’t know of any other reliable-enough way we can get logic.

    3. It’s been said that logic is guide, tradition is help, but only the Bible is rule. I’m not sure I would quite agree. It seems to me that WCF would say, instead, that “Tradition helps, but the Bible and biblical reasoning are rule.” It’s said that “The whole counsel of God concerning all things necessary for His own glory, man’s salvation, faith and life, is either expressly set down in Scripture, or by good and necessary consequence may be deduced from Scripture: unto which nothing at any time is to be added, whether by new revelations of the Spirit or traditions of men.” – WCF I.6, emphasis added.

    For example: you will not find anywhere in the Bible the exact statement that, “If the dead are not raised, then ‘your faith is futile and you are still in your sins’.” But 1 Corinthians 15:16-7 implies this. Logically, we are presented with an enthymeme. Here I don’t mean “enthymeme” in Kripke’s Modal Logic sense, but in the Aristotelian sense. How certain am I of the statement that “if the dead are not raised, then my faith is futile?” 100% certain!

    4. Perhaps I’m wrong, but it does not seem to me that the concept of “mystery” is antithetical to Clark’s position. I don’t read Clark as saying that we finite humans have the capability of fully understanding all the truths in Scripture. Similarly, suppose you define “paradox” as a synonym for “mystery”: why should Clark have a problem with that? Granted, Clark would probably advocate for pushing further into a matter than some people think you can push. But that’s not to say that Clark says you can push all the way through a mystery like the Trinity. If, on the other hand, you define “paradox” as a synonym for “contradiction”, then Clark has a problem with that, as should Van Til. I sometimes wonder if the Clarkians haven’t imposed the latter definition as being what the Van Tillians mean when they use that word. I don’t think they use the word that way.

    So if you could please clear up a few of these things for this arm-chair theologian, I would be much obliged.

    Cheers.

  106. Sean Gerety said,

    March 30, 2012 at 12:09 pm

    @Adrian. You know you should always listen to your father. But, as long as your twin doesn’t mind, I’ll try and answer your questions as I haven’t decided if pursuing things further with Dr. Strange is worth the effort. Plus, if I keep going I probably just tee off your twin. ;)

    1. A paradox in Vantillian epistemology is an apparent contradiction found in the deliverance’s of Scripture that must remain a contradiction at the bar of human reason. What makes it a paradox and not a run-of-the-mill contradiction is the belief that for God there are no contradictions. For example, John Frame in his essay, “The Problem of Theological Paradox” argued:

    [W]e are in a strange state of affairs: we have two propositions (“God is good” and “God foreordains evil”) which we can show to be logically interdependent in one sense; yet we cannot show them to be logically compatible except by an appeal to faith…. This balance of interdependence and paradox is in the interest of thinking in submission to Scripture. Scripture must be followed both in its assertions of interdependence and in its refusal to reconcile all doctrines to our satisfaction.

    Thus, a paradox remains for us, though by faith we are confident that there is no paradox for God. Faith is basic to the salvation of our knowledge as well as the salvation of our souls.

    Notice the role “faith” plays when confronting an apparent contradiction in Scripture. According to Frame, and by way of example, we cannot show through the use of logic how God’s goodness and his foreordination of evil can be harmonized; instead, we appeal to “faith.” According to Frame, “We must not simply push our logic relentlessly to the point where we ignore or deny a genuine biblical teaching” [emphasis Frame’s but you can see this argument being used by Dr. Strange above in reference to the Incarnation]. Logic fails, and we are unable to harmonize a particular set of Biblical teachings. That’s where “faith” comes in. We are not to wrestle with these “contradictory” teachings and attempt to logically harmonize what might seem to us to be conflicting truths, for, it is assumed at the outset, all such wrestling is futile and is a prideful violation of the Creator/creature distinction.

    2. For Clark apart from the immediate work of the Holy Spirit no one can nor will they accept the axiom of the Christian faith; the Scriptures. I think Clark’s view on this point is in harmony with WCF 1.5. I also think Clark would be very much in agreement with the other things you say in #2.

    3. No argument here.

    4. Clark said a paradox is “a charley-horse between the ears that can be eliminated by rational massage.” Vantillians might argue, if they were being candid, that a paradox is a charley-horse between the ears that we must accept on faith and in submission to the Creator/creature distinction. Further, that both sides of any seeming contradiction of Scripture must both be true (as opposed to a contradiction where we know that one side must be false).

    I think one of the key differences, and this goes to the question of epistemology, is that Vantillians maintain that the logical tensions or areas of seeming incoherence in the teachings of Scripture are actually evidence of the Creator/creature distinction and that attempts to alleviate these logical tensions, these charley-horses of the mind, is an act of sinful impiety, Rationalism, idolatry, or worse (you might have noticed I’ve been called some of those names already). For example, Van Til in his Intro to Systematics and in his Complaint against Clark ordination in the 1940’s, excoriates Clark for simply claiming to have solved the problem of God’s sovereignty and human responsibility quite apart from any evaluation, much less a refutation, of Clark’s actual argument. Ironically, I don’t think Van Til even read Clark’s argument, or if he did it is clear he didn’t understand it. But, his central objection to Clark was that he attempted to solve this problem and even claimed to have succeeded. To me this type of mindset, rooted in an epistemology that denies any univocal point of contact between God’s thoughts and man’s – even as God has revealed His mind to us in Scripture – is completely crippling to systematic theology (which is why many who have followed in CVT’s footsteps have eschewed systematics in favor of biblical theology).

    That said, I do agree with you that no Vantillian would say that we must accept contradictions. As Van Til put it, “While we shun as poison the idea of the really contradictory, we embrace with passion the idea of the apparently contradictory.” Two questions that arise are these: What is the difference between the “really contradictory” and the “apparently contradictory”? and, Is there any method by which we can tell one class of contradictions from the other? If there is no such method, what are the meaning and purpose of asserting that all Scripture is “apparently contradictory”? Does not such an assertion encourage laziness in Bible study, commend ignorance, and elevate clerics and academics, especially those of the Vantilian stripe, into a new priestly class who alone can peer into the Biblical stew of apparent contradictions, antinomies, tensions, analogies, and insoluble paradoxes and demand assent to their contradictory view of truth on the basis of nothing more than their own authority?

    That doesn’t mean that Clark believed we can exhaust the Trinity or the Incarnation or whatever. However, he did maintain that these doctrines can and should be formulated in a non-contradictory manner that accounts for all that Scripture teaches (despite Dr. Strange’s baseless assertion that Clark and those who hold to his epistemic framework are lopping off “the Bible’s sharp edges … to fit some dogmatic Procrustean bed”).

  107. jedpaschall said,

    March 30, 2012 at 1:26 pm

    Sean,

    Thanks for, at the very least shedding some more light on the Van Til/Clark controversy. I confess I haven’t spent much time on the issue, so I haven’t formed a firm opinion on either camp. Here’s a couple of observations and I’d be interested in your response:

    1) It seems to me the biggest weakness in the Clarkian camp is how they deal with the Creator/creature distinction and what this means for epistemology. To assert that there is any univocal contact between God’s knowledge and human understanding seems to me to miss the point of the distinction. Scripture seems clear that God’s thoughts are not human thoughts, and that the gap between the Creator and creature with respect epistemology is immense, revelation notwithstanding. Distinctions such as archetypal and ectypal knowledge are helpful (at least to me) in this respect – man ought to strive for the full measure of ectypal knowledge – commensurate with his capacity.

    2) As for the Vantillian camp, there is something in it that smacks of Kantian idealism. The fact is God has revealed propositions that are true, and facts that are discoverable through evidentiary inquiry. There is a real world in which God has revealed himself to men, and they have a responsibility to seek God out on this basis. To assert that one can only attain knowledge, or sufficient epistemological base by becoming a Christian and assuming Christian/biblical presuppositions, seems to relegate truth, at least on a functional level to something that exists in the mind, and can only be accessed by having the “right mind”. The notion that any assent to truth by an unbeliever is acquired with “borrowed capital” seems to subvert the real epistemic responsibility placed upon man to know the truth as revealed. Practically, to make apologetics entirely presuppositional is to dispense with the evidence for which man will ultimately be held liable for in the Divine Court upon Final Judgment. The evidentiary approach of some Clarkians seems wholly appropriate to me in this respect.

    I also echo your concerns with the tendency among some Vantlians to dispense with the traditional dogmatic/systematic language of our Reformed heritage by (at times) placing more capital in philosophical and biblical theological categories. Of course this isn’t always the case, but I have observed it in the last couple of years of interacting with them online. Alongside this I am also concerned that some in the Vantiian camp tend to eschew Natural Theology and NL, when both loom large in older Reformed Orthodoxy. As I read through the accounts of the controversy between Clark and Van Til, from both sides, it seemed to me that both had good ideas to bring to the table, and both had weaknesses, and simply could not have overcome the areas where there was real disagreements between them. I couldn’t help but think that the Reformed world would have been greatly served if their strengths could have been synthesized into a more cohesive system of thought as some of their critiques of each other seemed valid.

    As a Clarkian I am not sure you see it this way, or see a convergence between the two, or if this is even desirable. Also, is there a place for Natural Theology in Clarkian thought, or is it more dependent on Special Revelation? My exposure to these issues isn’t as broad as I’d like but I’d be curious to see where you agree and disagree with my assessment.

  108. Sean Gerety said,

    March 30, 2012 at 3:11 pm

    I think this will be my last comment on this thread as it has completely moved away from the topic of Lane’s post. Besides, last time I got into a big Clark/VT debate I ended up with the left-foot of fellowship from this blog.

    Jed writes:

    1) It seems to me the biggest weakness in the Clarkian camp is how they deal with the Creator/creature distinction and what this means for epistemology. To assert that there is any univocal contact between God’s knowledge and human understanding seems to me to miss the point of the distinction. Scripture seems clear that God’s thoughts are not human thoughts, and that the gap between the Creator and creature with respect epistemology is immense, revelation notwithstanding. Distinctions such as archetypal and ectypal knowledge are helpful (at least to me) in this respect – man ought to strive for the full measure of ectypal knowledge – commensurate with his capacity.

    What you consider the biggest weakness I consider Clark’s greatest strength. The Vantillian scheme of ectypal knowledge, more strictly Van Til’s theory of analogy, ends in skepticism. In his monograph, God’s Hammer: The Bible and Its Critics, Clark argues:

    If God has the truth and if man has only an analogy, it follows that he does not have the truth. An analogy of the truth is not the truth; even if man’s knowledge is not called an analogy of the truth but an analogical truth, the situation is no better. An analogical truth, except it contain a univocal point of coincident meaning, simply is not the truth at all. In particular (and the most crushing reply of all) if the human mind were limited to analogical truths, it could never know the univocal truth that it was limited to analogies. . . Such skepticism must be completely repudiated if we wish to safeguard a doctrine of verbal revelation.

    As I read through the accounts of the controversy between Clark and Van Til, from both sides, it seemed to me that both had good ideas to bring to the table, and both had weaknesses, and simply could not have overcome the areas where there was real disagreements between them. I couldn’t help but think that the Reformed world would have been greatly served if their strengths could have been synthesized into a more cohesive system of thought as some of their critiques of each other seemed valid.

    I think there were some areas of agreement between Clark and Van Til. Obviously in apologetics they were both presuppositionalists. However, when it comes to the area of epistemology, which is necessarily primary in any philosophy, even a Christian one, their positions were mutually exclusive. IMO the Clark/VT controversy in the ‘40’s marked a major watershed that the Reformed world hasn’t recovered from. To see these points of disagreement in stark relief, on the sidebar on my blog I have pdfs of the Complaint VT filed against Clark’s ordination along with Clark’s Answer to that complaint (I also have the Word docs available, but found out after the fact that they’re riddled with typos and errors and I should probably take them down).

    As a Clarkian I am not sure you see it this way, or see a convergence between the two, or if this is even desirable. Also, is there a place for Natural Theology in Clarkian thought, or is it more dependent on Special Revelation? My exposure to these issues isn’t as broad as I’d like but I’d be curious to see where you agree and disagree with my assessment.

    I agree with much of your assessment (the parts I agreed with I simply left out), however I don’t think you’ll find too much support for NT in Clark beyond the apriori all men are endowed with by virtue of being the image of God; i.e., having the law written on their hearts, the laws of logic, etc. Ironically, Van Til while completely rejecting NT in places did affirm that the classical proofs in some unspecified form were absolutely sound (admittedly he never produced these proofs despite Clark’s repeated requests).

    Years ago I cited a number of selections from VT where he forcefully rejects NT as anti-Christian (actually it was very good stuff) on a VT list run by James Anderson. Participants on the list citing VT’s affirmation of the classical proofs were able to find plenty of room to resurrect NT. Interestingly, Michael Sudduth was on the list at that time and was in the process of working on his book, The Reformed Objection to Natural Theology, a project openly encouraged by Anderson and other Vantillians on that list. On a side note, Sudduth recently abandoned Christianity altogether and converted to Hare Krishna. Not that the one necessarily follows the other. Just sayin’ ;)

  109. jedpaschall said,

    March 30, 2012 at 3:55 pm

    Sean,

    Thanks for the response, it gives me a clearer sense of the Clarkian position. If I have any questions, I’ll just hit you up over at your blog.

  110. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 30, 2012 at 5:28 pm

    Jed;

    While I would take issue with your characterization of Van Tilian presuppositionalism in several respects, this is not the point of this thread and I will forbear for another day.

    I will say this: Clarkianism, as Sean noted, is presuppositional as well, though of a rather different stripe. Van Til does speak of a use of proofs, and even evidence, rightly situated and contextualized. But not Clarkians.
    So what do you mean by this with respect to our Clarkian friends?

    “Practically, to make apologetics entirely presuppositional is to dispense with the evidence for which man will ultimately be held liable for in the Divine Court upon Final Judgment. The evidentiary approach of some Clarkians seems wholly appropriate to me in this respect.”

    Clarkians are quite presuppositional, like Van Tilians. And where do Clarkians support an empirical, or evidentiary, approach to anything? And why the question about natural theology? Do you think, Jed, that there is a place for natural theology?

  111. jedpaschall said,

    March 30, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    Alan,

    Apologies, if there are mischaracterizations of either school of thought it is squarely because of my lack of clarity with either. I thought I had clarified this to Sean, but I’ll reiterate it here. My understanding or misunderstanding of Clark/Van Til has much to do with my online reading and interactions with their proponents. While I have read some of each, my exposure isn’t where I would like it. That doesn’t preclude the fact that I am commenting on what I observe to this point. I have no doubt that some of my opinions will change as I read more, which is why I refrain from castigating one view over the other. But in my interactions, I noted those observations. The fact that knowledge has a univocal point of contact between God and man in Clark’s thought seems to imply to me that there are some facts that can be understood by both hence room for evidentiary dialogue (I could be dead wrong though). To the degree that they are both presuppositional is not something that I am trying to dispute

    As for natural theology, I absolutely see a place for it, it is attested as early as Calvin in the Reformed tradition, articulated by his successors, especially Beza and the Reformed Resistance Theorists. Van Drunen’s work in the area of NL seems to work well under the rubric of Natural Theology. I also follow the works of James Barr in this area, namely that there is the presence of Natural Theology in Scriptures, though I do not share his understanding of inspiration. If you’d like to clear anything up with me on the issue, hit me up by e-mail, which is my blog username (jedpaschall) at gmail dot com.

  112. Alan D. Strange said,

    March 30, 2012 at 6:43 pm

    I’ll leave it to a Clarkian to reply to the notion that Professor Clark made room for evidence (or even permitted propositions outside the Bible to be taken as truth). No more from me about Clark and/or Van Til (for now).

    WIth respect to NT, Calvin, of course, was cautious about the matter of NT. My recollection is that he was most particularly hesitant about it with respect to the unregenerate, but did in places express confidence in the regenerate being able to develop some sort of NT from cosmic observation. It is quite true that it gets a bigger play in some of the Resistance Theorists, though they tend to draw from Special Revelation as well (depending on who we’re talking about). If that’s what gets you to make considerably more sense, Jed, in some discussions elsewhere in the blogosphere, than some of your brothers who claim to define 2K, it may be worth it!

    It’s also interesting that you think that David’s work in NL “seems to work well under the rubric of Natural Theology.” I’m not sure what he would say there. I did bring up NT once to him and he was quick to distinguish NL and NT and make it clear that he was defending only NL. However, I must stop: We’ve gotten over onto that particular subject matter (you brought it up, brother!), but we both might get in trouble with our gracious host if we open up that can of worms over here again.

  113. April 7, 2012 at 1:12 pm

    [...] Green Baggins blog recently.   You can read Lane’s posts and the subsequent discussions here and here.  One of the central questions in that entire discussion was whether or not we can or [...]

  114. olivianus said,

    April 9, 2012 at 4:28 pm

    Jed,

    “To assert that there is any univocal contact between God’s knowledge and human understanding seems to me to miss the point of the distinction.”

    >>So then how can there be a real hypostatic union between divine and human in Christ?

    “Scripture seems clear that God’s thoughts are not human thoughts, and that the gap between the Creator and creature with respect epistemology is immense, revelation notwithstanding.”

    >>>This is exactly what the Adoptionists taught. Do you agree that the doctrine of analogy of proportionality (Thomistic view of epistemology) is sourced in ADS? The other big issue is the Western Scholastic dialectic between the infinite and the finite. I don’t think you understand the Christological implications. Van Til is Nestorian as Letham has recently admitted to me in my Clarkian criticisms of Absolute Divine Simplicity.

    The entire problem with this construction (analogy of proportionality) is that it eliminates the possibility of a hypostatic union in Christ. Christianity teaches that humanity and divinity united metaphysically/really at the level of hypostasis. Van Til’s construction is exposed as Adoptionism and at best Nestorianism by Jules Grisham. Grisham states in his Felled By “Good Pleasure” An Examination Of The Condemnation Of The Grammatico Historical Method Of Interpreting Scripture, As It Was Developed In The Exegetical School Of Antioch,

    “Theodore, then, to his own thinking, was only being consistent when he taught that the human nature of Jesus was essentially distinct from the divine nature of the Son-Logos. Because he understood hypostasis as referring to the concrete instance of a nature (in the sense that a person is a concrete instance, a particular expression, of human nature), and because, according to his fundamental understanding concerning ************the radical “other-ness” of God***************, he insisted that the divine and human natures could not be hypostatically joined without corruption of the divine, Theodore held that there is an inhering dualism in Christ’s person. Accordingly, he taught that we must think of Christ’s union not as a hypostatic one (that is, of substance) but as a prosopic one (that is, of manifestation and benevolence). Prosopon means “face,” “role” (referring to drama as well as to social status), or “person,” in the societal-functional sense –i.e., what one does. And the concept he used to explain how this prosopic union came to be and remains intact is “assumption.”(pg. 27)

    I wonder how Theodore would take Aquinas’ “extrinsic bond… a third thing to which the signification of a particular belongs primarily”. Upon examination I can find no difference between the two. Theodore’s Prosopon was just that; namely a product of the union of the two natures: a third thing as the common bond between the two natures. Van Til’s and Aquinas’ analogy of proportionality. This is precisely the opposite of what Scripturalism teaches. We believe in a univocal participation in God and deny that God is “totally other” as the Van Tillians, the Scholastics and the Neoplatonist Eastern Church teaches.

  115. Bryan Cross said,

    April 10, 2012 at 4:35 pm

    Sean,

    You wrote:

    God cannot suffer for the same reason He cannot tire or thirst. (comment #9)

    If we are not careful in our claims about God, we disallow the incarnation. If God can take on a human nature, then God can tire and thirst, in His human nature. So to deny absolutely that God can tire or thirst, is to deny that God can take on human nature. We therefore have to qualify the claim that God cannot suffer, by saying that in His divine nature God cannot suffer, but that if a divine Person takes on a human nature, then God can suffer in the human nature He has taken on. The relationship between the Logos and His human body is not merely one of ownership; He owns everything. Nor is it equivalent to that of demon possession, as though the Logos merely inhabits or occupies a human body, or moves it like a puppet. Rather, it is a relation of hypostatic union; this body and soul is Him; this body and soul’s being is His being. To touch His body is to touch the Logos, because that is who this is. The soldier didn’t merely pierce an organism’s side on the cross; the soldier pierced His side, the side of the Logos. It was not a mere organism that thirsted on the cross. The Logos thirsted (“I thirst” — John 19:28), and the Logos is God (John 1:1); therefore, it follows by logical necessity that God thirsted.

    IMO those who say that God dies, suffers and emotes are fashioning God in the likeness of man. But that’s the direction some seem to be heading. At least those like Lane who hold to the traditional understanding attempted to differentiate Christ’s two nature, even if we ended up with a nature and not a person dying on the cross. That is certainly preferable to some of these other theologians cited in this thread who end up destroying God. (comment #66)

    To say that God suffers in His human nature is only to affirm that Christ not only became man, but that He took on a passible human nature, and could therefore suffer in that nature; it doesn’t redefine or refashion the divine nature in any way. Nor does saying that God suffered and died entail a confusion of the natures. Saying that God suffered and died would entail a confusion of the two natures only if there were no divine Persons, but instead only the two natures. The suffering and death of the Second Person of the Trinity in His human nature does not entail that there is no distinction between the divine and human natures. Therefore affirming that the Second Person of the Trinity suffered and died in His human nature does not entail a confusion of the divine and human natures. On the contrary, saying that the claim that God suffered and died entails a confusion of the two natures presupposes that there are no divine Persons, only natures.

    Finally, the claim that affirming that God died on the cross ends up “destroying God” is a straw man. We say in the Creed, “he suffered death and was buried.” Death is a technical term here (we’re not talking about the second death). The term ‘death’ here, when we say that God suffered and died, means the separation of the body and soul. And the separation of body and soul when the Logos breathed His last on the cross, is fully compatible with the Logos continuing to exist as the omniscient, omnipresent, eternally begotten Son of the Father, continuing to uphold all things by His power. For this reason when we say that God suffered and died on the cross, that should not be construed in the Nietzchean sense of ‘God is dead,’ which means that God no longer exists. That would be a straw man of the Chalcedonian understanding of the meaning of the claim that it was truly God who suffered and died on the cross.

    In the peace of Christ,

    – Bryan

  116. olivianus said,

    April 12, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    Protestant Scholar Philip Schaff, Admits that the Calvinist View of Christ’s Presence in the Sacraments, Not the Lutheran View (And the Eastern View) Sustains Chalcedon While the Latter Attacks It

    Philip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, Vol. 1, Chapter 6. The Creeds of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, 46. The Form of Concord, Concluded. Analysis and Criticism.,

    “We add some general remarks on the Christology of the Formula, as far as it differs from the Reformed Christology. After renewed investigation of this difficult problem, I have been confirmed in the conviction that the exegetical argument, which must ultimately decide the case, is in favor of the Reformed and against the Lutheran theory; but I cheerfully admit that the latter represents a certain mystical and speculative element, which is not properly appreciated in the Calvinistic theology, and may act as a check upon Nestorian tendencies.

    1. The scholastic refinements of the doctrine of the communicatio idiomatum, and especially the ubiquity of the body, have no intrinsic religious importance, and owe their origin to the Lutheran hypothesis of the corporeal presence. They should, therefore, never have been made an article of faith. A surplus of orthodoxy provokes skepticism.

    2. The great and central mystery of the union of the divine and human in Christ, which the Formula desires to uphold, is overstated and endangered by its doctrine of the genus majestaticum, or the communication of the divine attributes to the human nature of Christ. This doctrine runs contrary to the ἀσυγχύτως and ἀτρέπτως of the Chalcedonian Creed. It leads necessarily—notwithstanding the solemn protest of the Formula—to a Eutychian confusion and æquation of natures; for, according to all sound philosophy, the attributes are not an outside appendix to the nature and independent of it, but inherent qualities, and together constitute the nature itself. Or else it involves the impossible conception of a double set of divine attributes—one that is original, and one that is derived or transferred.”

    http://www.ccel.org/ccel/schaff/creeds1.viii.vii.html


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