Friday, May 4, 2012

Man’s Savior must be God and Man Hypostatically United (1)

There is a beauty to correct theology that is difficult to express. We may put it best by saying that it is a harmonious unity of parts. All portions connect to and mutually prove the others. If we surrender one point, we lose everything. Such is the case with our present topic. If we consider what sin is and what it means to make satisfaction for sins, we will see how the Hypostatic Union is the only live option. Conversely, if we reject the Hypostatic Union, we thereby either destroy all hope of salvation or reveal a secret commitment to the religion of Cain.

All creatures, by virtue of their creaturehood, owe to God, as their Creator and Sustainer, perfect conformity to His will. Sin, then, is nothing else than to not render to God His due. Every thought of a rational creature should be subject to God’s will. This is what man and angel owe to God. Everyone who does not do this, sins. When a person sins, he robs God of the honor of perfect obedience. Consequently, everyone who sins ought to pay back the honor of which he has robbed God. This is the satisfaction that every sinner owes to God. Moreover, the satisfaction should be proportionate to the guilt.

What payment would we make for our sins: Repentance, a broken and contrite heart, self-denial, various bodily sufferings, pity in giving and forgiving, and obedience? But what do we give God in all these things that we do not already owe Him as His creatures? Nothing. How will we then be saved?

If we suppose that our contrite heart and repentant feelings are enough to blot out our sin, this is only because we have not considered aright what the true nature and burden of sin is. In his classic work, Cur Deus Homo, Anselm of Canterbury asks: “If you should find yourself in the sight of God, and someone said to you: ‘Look over there;’ and God, on the other hand, should say: ‘It is not my will that you should look;’ ask your own heart what there is in all of existence which would make it right for you to give that look contrary to the will of God.[i] Of course, we would all answer that there is absolutely no motive that would make it right. Anselm continues by asking, “what if it were necessary either that the whole universe, except God himself, should perish and fall back into nothing, or else that you should do so small a thing against the will of God?”[ii] The deed, which seems so insignificant, when viewed as contrary to God’s will, becomes the worst deed imaginable.

This is precisely the case of man. In Adam we have all given the look God forbade. It is contrary to God’s honor that man be reconciled to Him while this reproach is still heaped upon God. Man still owes God the perfect obedience required of Adam before the Fall. But man is no longer capable of this because he is conceived in and born in sin. Man has a two-fold plight: His depravity makes him unable to render to God the obedience God demands, and he stands under the just wrath of God for this violation.

God must recover His right. Supreme justice cannot forego this. Therefore it is an absolute perversion of justice for man to receive from God what God designed to give him, unless he return to God everything which he took from him. But this cannot be achieved except in this way: In the fall of man all humanity was corrupted and tainted with sin. God will not choose one of this nature to fill up the number in his heavenly kingdom. But, if man gained this victory, as many men as are needed to complete the number which man was made to fill, could be justified from sin. But a sinner cannot do this: a sinner cannot justify a sinner. Only God can do what man needs done. But that serves no purpose, since God is the offended party. Man must pay what only God can afford. God cannot pay the debt owed to Himself. This is surely the mother of all quandaries and an enigma that only the mind of God could unravel.

Hence when we look at the state of fallen man in Original Sin, we see that no other solution will prevail but that which God has actually given in His Son, Jesus Christ. The only solution to this dilemma is if God could become a man, and, as a man could pay man’s debt to God. Enter Jesus Christ - very God and very man, hypostatically united as our Mediator!

One of the finest New Testament passages describing for us the Hypostatic Union is Luke 1:35:
kai; ajpokriqei;" oJ a[ggelo" ei\pen aujth'/, Pneu'ma a{gion ejpeleuvsetai ejpi; sev, kai; duvnami" uJyivstou ejpiskiavsei soi: dio; kai; to; gennwvmenon a{gion klhqhvsetai, uiJo;" qeou'.

And the angel answered and said unto her, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”

These words contain a brief description of the supernatural conception. They not only show us that Christ’s humanity was sinless, but also that it was never in Adam’s covenant. The second clause more fully describes what is affirmed in the first clause. (We are all familiar with the exegetic rule that in corresponding members of this type the darker is to be explained by the clearer.) The significance of both clauses is this: The Holy Spirit was the former of Christ’s human nature; and that the Son by assuming it into personal union, made it His own by a right unique to Himself – that is, by a union that is personal and incommunicable to the other Persons of the Godhead.* It was united to Him in such a sense that it also (kai9) is the Son of God. That Holy Thing began to be at the conception of the Spirit.  And these words are important to refute those who dislike the idea that our Lord’s flesh was formed by the Spirit from Mary’s substance, and imagine to themselves a certain heavenly flesh brought with Him from above.

*(The words “of thee” (en sou~), deleted by many in the phrase, should probably be retained in the text. They are found in such a number of Fathers (Justin, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Cyprian, Athanasius, Chrysostom, Epiphanius, Jerome) that the balance of authority from this source alone goes far to counterbalance the evidence of faulty manuscripts against them.)

There are two poles of error regarding the union of natures in Christ. There is the heresy of Nestorius - Nestorianism, the rejection of the “hypostatic union” meaning that Christ was two persons, one human and one divine. Nestorianism denies any union between the two natures, making Christ a split personality, in fact, a dual personality. Christ becomes something of a schizophrenic whose actions cannot be clearly attributed to His humanity or His deity.

Springing from the same source, the opposite error is Eutychianism, the heresy of Eutychus (d. 454). His doctrine that the incarnate Christ had only a single, divine nature, clad in human flesh is sometimes called monophysitism. Incumbent in the heresy of Eutychus is the denial that Christ’s flesh derived from the virgin Mary.

We can expose the fallacy of this thinking quite simply. Christ either did or did not take human flesh from Mary. If He did not take it from her, then we must inquire what manhood He put on when He came among us. If His flesh did not come from the seed of Abraham and David and finally of Mary, then we must show what man's flesh he descended from, since, after the first man, all human flesh is derived from human flesh. If we name anybody beside Mary the virgin as the cause of the conception of Christ Savior, we will have stamped deception on the Godhead for shifting to others the promise of the prophecies made to Abraham and David that from their seed salvation would arise for the world. On the other hand, if it was not a truly human body, the Godhead is likewise convicted of falsehood for displaying to men a body that was not real and thus deceiving those who thought it real. If it was not a truly human body, the result is in essence no different than Docetism. But if flesh had been formed new and real but not taken from man, what was the purpose of the whole drama of the conception? Where is the value of His passion? The error of Eutyches takes its rise from the same source as that of Nestorius. Therefore, it ends the same way: the human race has not been saved, since man who was dead in sin and needed salvation was not taken into Godhead.

Returning to our text we note that the words dio; kai indicate that there is both: an eternal generation, and a holy thing begotten - created when assumed and assumed when created. And the result is not two Persons, but one; for the holy thing to which Mary gave birth is also called the Son of God.

Therefore it is abundantly clear from Scripture that the Lord’s humanity was produced by the Holy Spirit in a supernatural way, which at once prevented the possibility of contracting guilt from Adam and which, by an act of infinite wisdom and power, put Him within the human family as a kinsman-Redeemer, and yet exempted Him from being in Adam’s covenant; for He was the second Adam, the Son of man.

The mother did not need an immaculate nature. The question, “How could pure humanity be derived from a defiled source which unanimously entails corruption on others?” is a difficulty that has confounded many: the Valentinians, the Anabaptists, the Quakers and some of the Plymouth Brethren on the one side, and the entire Church of Rome on the other. The sects named attempted to meet the difficulty by representing Mary as but a pipe or channel (swlh9n) through which a heavenly body or flesh, immediately created by the Holy Spirit, but not formed from her substance, was introduced into the world. But on this principle the Lord Jesus would belong to another order of beings and would not be our brother, born into our family[iii]. Redemption was only possible when affected by a goel, or kinsman-Redeemer.[iv]

The Romish church met this difficulty (in the Papal Bull of Dec. 10, 1854) by affirming the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary and her exemption from all taint of original sin before she was born. Of this theory, the presupposition (or, as the theologians express it, the prw~ton yeu~dov) can be nothing else but the theory of Flacius on the subject of original sin, viz., that sin had become the very essence of man. The theologians who confuted Flacius immediately saw that on such a supposition the Incarnation would have been impossible. They saw that human nature, corrupted as it was by the sin of Adam, was still, as a work of God, good, and was therefore capable of redemption. We can distinguish in idea between the good work of God and the vitiating taint superinduced upon it. We cannot separate these elements. God can do both – redeem His creature, and separate sin.

The following quotation (which I have posted here before) from Bishop Horsley’s sermons will serve to elucidate the position we have affirmed here: “Neither of the two natures was absorbed in the other, but both remained in themselves perfect, notwithstanding the union of the two in one person, the Divine Word, to which the humanity was united, was not, as some ancient heretics imagined, instead of a soul to inform the body of the man; for this could not have been without a diminution of the divinity, which upon this supposition must have become obnoxious to all the perturbations of the human soul, - to the passions of grief, fear, anger, pity, joy, hope, and disappointment, - to all which our Lord without sin was liable. The human nature in our Lord was complete in both its parts, consisting of a body and a rational soul. The rational soul of our Lord’s human nature was a distinct thing from the principle of divinity to which it was united; and being so distinct, like the souls of other men, it owed the right use of its faculties, in the exercise of them upon religious subjects, and its uncorrupted rectitude of will, to the influence of the Holy Spirit of God. Jesus indeed ‘was anointed with this holy oil above His fellows,’ inasmuch as the intercourse was uninterrupted, - the illumination by infinite degrees more full, and the consent and submission, on the part of the man, more perfect than in any of the sons of Adam; insomuch that He alone of all the human race, by the strength and light imparted from above, was exempt from sin, and rendered superior to temptation. To Him the Spirit was given not by measure. The unmeasured infusion of the Spirit into the Redeemer’s soul was NOT THE MEANS, BUT THE EFFECT, of its union to the second person of the Godhead. A union of which this had been the means had differed only in degree from that which is, in some degree, the privilege of every believer, - which, in an eminent degree, was the privilege of the apostles, who, by the visible descent of the Holy Ghost upon them on the day of Pentecost, were, in some sort, like the Lord, anointed with the unction from on high. But in Him the natures were united, and the uninterrupted perfect commerce of His human soul with the Divine Spirit was the effect and privilege of that mysterious conjunction.”[v]

[i]Anselm, Cur Deus Homo
[ii] Ibid.
[iii] Heb. 2:14
[iv] Ruth 2:20
[v] (Sermon IX) cited by Smeaton

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