Monday, May 7, 2012

Man’s Savior must be God and Man Hypostatically United (2)

The relation of the deity and humanity was resolved at the Council of Chalcedon (451), which taught one Christ in two natures united in one person, or u9postasiv (hypostasis – hence the term, Hypostatic), yet remaining, “without confusion, without conversion, without division, without separation.” This was later refined to mean that the human nature is enhypostatic, meaning that it subsists in and through the divine nature. Further, Chalcedon declared, there are two wills – a human and divine – in the one Christ. The Monotheletes, as the advocates of a single Divine will in Christ were called, were summarily confuted by Maximus the Confessor by his argument that a human being without a human will is a mere mental abstraction. If Christ had no human will, He would not be fully human and therefore could not represent Man before God.

In the treatment this subject received during the Reformation, some less careful writers focused on a union of two natures in which the human nature is assumed into the divine. This position verged on the interpenetration of natures Chalcedon had tried to avoid. They posited an interpenetration of natures; hence this Christology is perilously akin to the Eutychian scheme. The weakness of this system can be exposed in the following simple manner: Two substances cannot be mixed without losing the essence – or nature – of both. If we mix water and honey, for instance, the result is neither water nor honey, but a third substance. If the two natures in Christ were mixed in such a way, He would be neither God nor man, but a third, different kind of being. And as such, He could not mediate between God and Man.

The Calvinists on the other hand, began with the divine person, which assumed humanity. They saw a direct union between the natures, adding to the patristic conception of the communicatio idiomatum the concept of the communicatio operationum in which the properties of the two natures coincide in one person. So they could speak of an active commuion between the natures without teaching a doctrine of mutual interpenetration. The communicatio operationum adjusts patristic theology’s somewhat static way of speaking of the Hypostatic Union by seeing the person and the work of Christ in inseparable unity. In other words, the Incarnation and the Atonement are complimentary in essence.

Christ knew what He came to do and was always aware of His Divine identity. There have been many speculations about Christ’s self-consciousness. We can assert with certainty that Christ did at all times walk in full conscious awareness that He was God and man in one person. The Spirit was given to Him as a consequence of the personal union in a degree that no mere man could possess. This constituted the link between the deity and the humanity, continuously imparting the full consciousness of His personality, and making Him aware of His Divine Sonship at all times (Luke 2:49).

Christ came as the God-man to do for us what we could never do for ourselves. Any attempt to water-down the deity of Christ or His full manhood destroys salvation. His sacrifice at Calvary was not primarily a demonstration of God’s love, as many are so wont to say. Rather, it was a demonstration of God’s holy wrath and hatred of sin. Unless God’s wrath against sin were actually poured out on Christ, His death was purposeless. Atonement must be made for sin; God’s justice must be satisfied; His honor must be vindicated. Christ’s death cannot be a demonstration of love unless it is a demonstration of hatred.

Here is the weakness of the “moral suasion” theology. Good examples are not salvific. Only actual atonement for actual guilt is sufficient. Unless someone from our race was placed, like Adam, as the federal head of the race, we could never have been redeemed. A mediator must be on equal footing with both concerned parties. Christ, as God and Man, can represent man before God and can represent Man before God. He can pay the debt mankind owed to God that only God could pay. There is a great deal of truth in these fine words of George Smeaton, “The whole application of redemption is not to be regarded as man dealing with God, but rather as the action of the God-man, in His capacity as His people’s representative dealing with the Father, and the Father dealing with the Son, according to the counsel of peace between them both, for man’s acceptance.”[1] In the final analysis, “salvation is of the LORD.”[2]

[1] George Smeaton, The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit, pt.2 chap. 5.
[2] Jonah 2:9

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