The School of Faith: The Catechisms of the Reformed Church
“Is the spiritual union another union, a union in addition to our carnal union with Christ, or is it a sharing in the one and only union between God and man wrought out in Jesus Christ? That is a very important question, for if the spiritual union is an additional union, then our salvation depends not only on the finished work of Christ but upon something else as well which has later to be added on to it before it is real for us. That was in fact the idea taught by Romans for example, in their doctrine of baptismal regeneration and ex opere operato sacramental incorporation into Christ, but it is the same idea that is taught also by Protestants in their doctrine of a union with Christ which is effected by faith or by conversion through which alone what Christ has done for us becomes real for us. Both these forms of the same error lead to a doctrine of man’s co-operation in his own salvation; and so involve a doctrine of conditional grace.”
“This doctrine is unfortunately found in the Westminster Catechisms. It is particularly clear in the later Covenant theology in which man was said to acquire ‘a saving interest in Christ’ through entering into a personal covenant with Him in addition to the Covenant of Grace sealed to him in baptism and proclaimed to him (on this condition) in the Gospel. As against that grave aberration it must be insisted that there is only one union with Christ, that which He has wrought out with us in His birth and life and death and resurrection and in which He gives us to share through the gift of His Spirit. The difference between these two views may appear very slight indeed at this point, but the implications of this difference are very far-reaching especially in the whole sphere of the life and work of the Church, in the doctrine of grace, and in our understanding of the Sacraments. ”
“It is through partaking of Christ Himself that we partake of His benefits and blessings. As we have seen, Christ and His graces, Christ and His merits, Christ and His benefits, Christ and His promises, are all ways of speaking of the impossibility of separating Christ’s life from His work or of separating His work on the Cross from His atoning life. Faith is concerned here with the whole Christ, and union with Christ is with that whole Christ. If there has to be a priority in our understanding then we must say with Calvin and Craig, in the passages cited above, that it is through participating in Christ that we partake of His benefits, for unless He gives Himself to us first, His blessing is not ours. This means that the forensic element in the atoning work of Christ rests upon the basis of His Incarnation, upon His Person and Human life, and therefore that the forensic element in justification reposes for its substance and meaning upon union with Christ. It is through union with Him that we enter into the blessing of justification, because it was through His becoming one of us first in His Incarnation that Christ wrought our justification for us. Once again, the difference between this view and the view that we first share in the benefits of Christ and then through them come to share in His life and have union with Him, may seem very slight and unimportant, but the reverse is the case.
How wide is the range of “the carnal union” which Christ has effected between Himself as the Incarnate Son and human flesh? Does this include all men, or does it refer only to the elect? This is of fundamental importance for the doctrine of the Spirit. If Christ’s incarnational union with us involves all men, then we must give a proper interpretation to the pouring out of the Spirit upon ‘all flesh,’ but if Christ’s incarnational union only involves those who believe in Him or only some out of the human race, then the doctrine of the Spirit’s work must be changed accordingly. The question to faced is whether Christ only entered into a generic relation with men through becoming one particular man, or also entered into an ontological relation with all men in the assumption of our human flesh. Two caveats against the former ought to be stated right away. If Christ only entered into a generic relation with men then (a) the saving union of men with Christ must be regarded as an additional union added by the Spirit on to the union which He has perfected in Himself; and (b) the Church can only be construed in terms of an extension of the Incarnation, both of which we must reject as erroneous.”
“This problem cannot be discussed fully here, but in line with what has already been said above about the relation of Christ to the creation, we may remind ourselves that the eternal Son and Word of God is He in whom all men cohere for He is the Creator who gives them being and through His Spirit holds them in being. There is thus an ontological relation between the creature and the Creator reposing upon His sheer grace, in which He gives them being as realities distinct from Himself, so that the ontological relation, as Barth has so clearly and decisively shown, is not reversible. That is, the Son and Word of God became man by becoming one particular Man, but because He is the Creator Word who became Man, even as the Incarnate Word He still holds all men in an ontological relationship to Himself. That relation was not broken off with the Incarnation.”
“It may be argued that this applies only to the eternal Son, but if we really hold that the human nature and the divine nature share in one hypostasis or person, it will be extremely difficult to maintain that Christ has only generic relation to men. In any case it belongs to the very essence of the Incarnational life and work of the Son that in Him redemption penetrates back to the very beginning and reunites man’s life to God’s creative purpose. Redemption is no mere afterthought on the part of God, for in it the original creation comes to a transcendent realisation, and the one Covenant of Grace made with all creation is fulfilled. The Biblical teaching is quite explicit that in Christ all things are really involved in reconciliation, that He is not only the Head of believers, but the Head of all creation and that all things visible and invisible are gathered up and cohere in Him—from which we cannot exclude a relation in being between all men and Christ. The teaching of the earlier of the Catechisms is that Christ is the Head of men and angels, the Head of all men, and as the Head of all men died for all men, so that all men are involved already objectively in His human life and in His work in life and death, i.e. not only on judicial and transactional grounds, but on the ground of the constitution of His Person as Mediator.”
“Now this carries with it the implication ‘that human beings have no being apart from Christ as man’ (which Dr. Henry rejects, The Gospel of the Incarnation, p. 5). If Christ had not come, if the Incarnation had not taken place, and things between man and God had been and are allowed to take their course as a result of man’s estrangement from God and God’s judgement upon man, man would disappear into nothing. It belongs to the nature of sin that it is alienation from God, and therefore that it is alienation from the source of all being in the Creator. There is nothing that the rebel or the sinner wants less than to be laid hold of by God in spite of his sin and be restrained from his sinful movement away from God, but that is precisely what happened in the Incarnation. The Incarnation means that God refused to hold back His love, and His loving affirmation of His creation, that He refused to let man go the way of his sin, from alienation to alienation, and so ultimately into non-being. The Incarnation means that God Himself condescended to enter into our alienated human existence, to lay hold of it, to bind it in union with Himself; and the consummation of the Incarnation in the death and resurrection means the the Son of God died for all men, and so once and for all constituted men as men upon whom God had poured out His life and love, so that men are for ever laid hold of by God and affirmed in their being as His creatures. They can no more escape from His love and sink into non-being than they can constitute themselves men for whom Christ has not died. How can God co back upon the death of His dear Son? How can God undo the Incarnation and go back upon Himself? How can God who is Love go back upon the pouring out of His love once and for all and so cease to be Himself? That is the decisive, final thing about the whole Incarnation including the death of Christ, that it affects all men, indeed the whole of creation, for the whole of creation is now put on a new basis with God, the basis of a Love that does not withhold itself but only overflows in our unending Love. That is why creation still continues in being, and that is why man still exists, for God has not given him up, but on the contrary poured out His love upon him unreservedly once and for ever, decidedly and finally affirming man as His child, eternally confirming the creation as His own handiwork. God does not say Yes, and No, for all He has done is Yes and Amen in Christ. That applies to every man, whether he will or no. He owes his very being to Christ and belongs to Christ, and in that he belongs to Christ he has his being only from Him and in relation to Him.”
“All this is not to say that a man may not suffer damnation, for he may in spite of all reject Christ and refuse God’s grace. How that is possible, we simply cannot understand: that a sinner face to face with the infinite love of God should yet rebel against it and choose to take his own way, isolating himself from that love—that is the bottomless mystery of evil before which we can only stand aghast, the surd which we cannot rationalise, the enigma of Judas. But it happens. Just as it is by the very breath God gives us that we sin against Him, so it is by the very being that a man is given in and through Christ that he may yet turn his back upon Christ and deny Him, and so shatter himself against the love of God that will not let him go just because it does not cease to love. But this does mean that if a man irrevocably chooses the way of his sinful self-will and suffers damnation, he does not and cannot go into non-being, disappearing into annihilation, for the Incarnation and death of Christ cannot be undone. The sinner cannot undo the fact that Christ has gathered him into a relation of being with Him, and has once and for all laid hold of him in His life and death and resurrection.”
“This may be stated in another way. The sinner cannot isolate himself from God by escaping into an area where God’s love does not love and where he can be left to himself. Even in hell he cannot be left to himself for there he is still apprehended by the fact that God loves, that His love negates all that is not love just by being love, that His love refuses to allow the sinner to escape being loved and therefore resists the sinner’s will to isolate himself from that love. His being in hell is not the result of God’s decision to damn him, but the result of his own decision to choose himself against the love of God and therefore of the negative decision of God’s love to oppose his refusal of God’s love just by being Love. This negative decision of God’s love is the wrath of the Lamb, that is to say, the once and for all fact that Christ has died for the sins of the world, the finalizing of the love in an eternally decisive deed, which just because it cannot be undone stands irresolutely opposed to all that is not love, or that resists it. Just because the love of God has once and for all drawn all men into the circle of its own loving, it has thereby rejected all that rejects God’s love. It does not reject by ceasing to love but precisely by continuing to love and therein rejecting all that rejects love. Therefore the sinner in hell cannot escape the fact that he is loved, cannot escape into being left to himself, and therefore even in choosing himself so as for ever to be himself, he cannot escape from himself as one loved, so that he is for ever imprisoned in his own refusal of being loved and indeed that is the very hell of it”
Theology in Reconstruction (SCM Press Ltd, 1965)
“If therefore there is a true analogy of proportionality, as the Thomists aver, it must be one grounded, not on any abstractly conceived ontological continuity between man and God, but on the unio hypostatica in which we have union of God and man as god himself has set forth in Christ, and in which we may be united to God by partaking of that union in faith. We cannot, therefore, set forth a doctrine of the image of God, or of analogy already lodged in the being of man, as Augustine taught, before men are partakers of God. Thus, true analogy of proportionality grounded upon the Word and grace of God will be set forth in this fashion; man and God are related in the mutual relation of faith and grace proportionaliter to the relation of Man and God in the hypostatic union in Christ Jesus. This means that the doctrine of the Word of God and human decision, of election and human faith, of the Divine presence and the worldly element in the sacrament, etc., will be grounded entirely upon the central relation and union of God and Man of which every other relation must partake.”
“The incarnation shows us quite unmistakably that there is an essential bi-polarity in God’s revelation of himself to man. God is God and not man, and yet in the incarnation God has become man, this particular Man, Jesus Christ, without ceasing to be God. In him divine nature and human nature are united, really and eternally united, in one Person. In him the eternal Word of God has assumed human nature and existence into oneness with himself in order thus, as truly divine and truly human, to become the final Word of God to man and the one Mediator between God and man. In other words, the incarnation shows us that God reveals himself (God) in terms of what is not-God (man), that revelation is given to us only in terms of what it is not, in the humanity of those to whom it is given, so that form first to last we have to reckon with an essential bi-polarity. In the nature of the case we cannot get behind the ‘what he is not’ to the ‘what he is in himself,’ any more that we can get behind the back of Jesus to the Son of God. We cannot divide between the so-called from and content, between the human word of revelation and the revelation itself, any more that we can divide asunder the human and divine natures which are united in the one Person of Jesus Christ. The inconfuse, immutabiliter, indivise, inseparabiliter of the Chalcedonian Christology apply equally to our understanding of that revelation. Revelation is not only act from the side of God but also from the side of man, in the form of the Humanity of Christ which is the very substance of revelation. The divine form and human form of revelation must neither be confounded not be separated. The incarnation means that now revelation is determined and shaped by the Humanity of Christ, that we know of no revelation of the Word of God except that which is given through Christ and in the form of Christ. Jesus Christ is the Truth, Truth as God is Truth, and that same Truth in the form of Man, Truth answering itself, Truth assuming its own true form from the side of man and from within man. As such he is not only the Truth of God in man, but the Truth of man and in amn, and therefore the Truth of man.”
“What is absolutely central is Jesus Christ. Man’s salvation is exclusively the work of God in Jesus Christ, God in union with Man, and therefore Man in union with God. It is an outstanding characteristic of all the documents of the Scottish Reformation that a place of centrality is given to the union of God and Man in Jesus Christ, and therefore of our ‘blessed conjunction’ or ‘society’ or ‘fraternity’ with Christ. That union with Christ lies at the heart of our righteousness in him, for it is through that union that we actually participate in his holy life. Knox laid immense stress upon the saving Humanity of Christ, that is, upon his positive obedience and filial life in our flesh. Consider for example, this sentence that comes from the Form of Confession in the Book of Common Order: “We must always have our refuge to the free justice which procedith of the obedience which Jesus Christ hath prayed for us.” What Knox refers to there is the fact that the prayer of Jesus was part of his atoning obedience and oblation of God—it was the worship of God the Father with his Life. In that Life of the worshipping and obedient Son we are made to share and are well-pleasing to the Father as through that participation we are clothed with the Name and holy life of Christ, In his unity with man the Son of God lived out a perfect Life on earth in obedience, love and worship, and as such died and rose again. Therefore it is in and through our union with him, that all that is his becomes ours. It is only as such, that is in the Name of Christ, that we appear before God, and as such that he regards us—in Christ.”
“Justification is interwoven with Incarnation—the union of God and Man in Christ, and with the fulfilment of that union in Reconciliation and Mediation between God and man which was wrought out in the life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ—although the final execution of it so far as we are concerned awaits the coming again of Jesus Christ. Justification is rooted in the Incarnation and therefore it reaches out to the final Advent of Jesus as the Incarnate Son—it is both Christological and eschatological. In none of the Reformers was the stress upon incarnational union so strong as in Knox; and in none of them was the place given to the Parousia so powerful; while it is Knox’s highly distinctive doctrine of the Ascension that links those two together, or rather reveals the relation of the Incarnation to the Parousia. It is in the Ascension that we have the fruit of the Incarnation (including the Death and Resurrection) of Christ, and it is in the Parousia that we have the full fruit of the Ascension.”
“The word dikaioun, like the Scots word to justify, may mean to condemn as well as to vindicate. The basic meaning, which we find in biblical Greek, is to put in the right, to put into truth. Thus, if a man is guilty he is put in the right by being condemned, for that is the truth of the matter; if he is innocent he is put in right by being declared guiltless and set free. Justification always involves the fulfilling of righteousness, or the enacting of the truth.
The gospel teaches ‘the justification of the ungodly,” and the astounding things about it is that it means such a putting of the ungodly man in the right that through fulfilment of his condemnation he is justified, justified in both senses; judged and acquitted, condemned and vindicated, exposed as guilty and made righteous—but that is truth, aletheia, concrete reality, only in Jesus Christ.
Let us consider what that means, by thinking of it in terms of objective justification and subjective justification.
A. Objective justification takes place in Christ, before the Father. The Scots Confession expounds it in this way. there was ‘enmity betwixt the justice of God and our sins,’ and therefore the Son of God descended to take himself a body of our body, flesh of our flesh, and bone of our bones, and so to become Mediator between God and man. Three conceptions are involved here which we may allow three words of the Confession in its Latin edition to express. (a) Frater. the Son of the Father has made himself our Brother, for through his incarnational union with us, he has established our union with him. By making himself our Brother, he has made us brothers of his and therefore sons of the Father. Through this incarnational fraternity, that which was lost in Adam is restored. (b) Mediator or Interpres. Through his Sonship, that is, through his obedient life in filial relation towards the Father, and through his brotherhood with us in our estrangement, Christ is the active Agent who reveals God to us and reconciles us to God—and that he does though the whole of his Life lived out in our flesh and bone in which he brought us back to union with God. The positive emphasis here is upon the obedience of the Beloved Son. (c) Pacifator. As our Mediator of Redeemer it behoved Jesus Christ to be very God and very Man ‘because He was to underlie the punishment due for our transgressions, and to present Himself in the presence of His Father’s Judgment, as in our persone, to suffer for our transgression and inobedience be death to overcome him that was the author of death.’
All of this could only be done in hypostatic union, ‘the wondrous conjunction betwixt Godhead and Manhood,’ and out of it issues our justification in resurrection.
This is the doctrine which Reformed theology has called the Active and Passive Obedience of Christ, and his incarnational Assumption and Sanctification of our human nature.
1. By active obedience of Christ is meant the positive fulfilment in the whole life of Jesus of his Sonship. From the very beginning to the very end he maintained a perfect filial relation to the Father in which he yielded to him a life of utter love and faithfulness, of praise and thanksgiving and confidence and trust, and in which he perfectly fulfilled God’s holy will and received and laid hold of the love of the Father. This active obedience was therefore his own loving self-offering to the Father in our name and on our behalf and also his own faithful appropriation of the Father’s Word and will in our name and on our behalf.
2. By passive obedience is meant the submission of Jesus Christ to the judgment of the Father upon our sin which he assumed in our humanity when he was ‘made under the Law’ in order to bear it in our name and on our behalf. This is the passion he endured in the expiation of our sins, but it is also his willing acceptance of the divine verdict upon our humanity. The passive obedience is manifested above all in the obedience of Jesus unto the death of the Cross, but that was a passion that began with his very birth, for his whole life, as Calvin says, was in areal sense a bearing of the Cross, but it was in the Cross itself that it had its telos or consummation.”
“If we are to think of the active and passive obedience of Christ as dealing with our actual sin and its penalty, we are to think of the incarnational union of the Holy Son with our unholy nature as dealing with our original sin, or as sanctifying union with his own holy nature. That applies, as Calvin insisted in a famous section of his Institutes, to the whole life of Jesus, his conception, birth, childhood, youth, manhood, for by living his holy life through the whole course of our life he has sanctified our conception, birth, childhood, youth, manhood, and death, in himself.”
“He was the great Believer—vicariously believing in our place and in our name. He was not only the will of God enacted in our flesh, but he was the will of man united to the divine will. In becoming one with us he laid hold upon our wayward human will, made it his very own, and bent it back into obedience to, and in oneness with, the holy will of God.Likewise in justification, Jesus Christ was not only the embodiment of God’s justifying act but the embodiment of our human appropriation of it. In that unity of the divine and the human, justification was fulfilled in Christ from both sides, from the side of the justifying God and from the side of justified man—”He was justified in the Spirit,” as St Paul put it. Justification as objective act fo the redeeming God and justification as subjective actualization of it in our estranged human existence have once and for all taken place—in Jesus.”
“Justification has been fulfilled subjectively as well as objectively in Jesus Christ, but the objective and subjective justification is objective to us. It is freely imputed to us by grace objectively and we through the Spirit share in it subjectively as we are unite to Christ. His subjective justification becomes ours, and it is subjective in us as well as in him, but only subjective in us because it has been made subjectively real in our own human nature, in our own human flesh in Jesus, our Brother, and our Mediator”
“It is often argued that as in Christ himself divine and human natures are united, so in the Church there is a union of divine and human elements. Here there would appear to be a double error. First, this was of paralleling the relationship between the divine and human elements in the Church to the union of the divine and human natures in Christ, appears to argue that the union in Christ is comparable to the kind of participation in the Church, in which through grace the Church is participant in the Spirit—which is to obscure the understanding of the hypostatic union. Secondly, this is to make use of a false form of analogical relationship, which ought to be stated thus: a divine and human natures are related in Christ, so in the Church Christ and human nature are related, for the Church is the Body of Christ. The analogy then takes the proper form: as A is to Be, so C is to D, where C is A to B. Since Christ (C) in whom the Church of believers (D) participates, is one who unites human nature as well as divine nature in himself, the Church participating in him participates in his human nature. But when the false form of analogy is drawn, as in the statement I have cited, then the human nature of Christ is omitted from it, and that means that C is replaced by A in the form: as A is to B so A is to D. Thus this doctrine of the Church turns out to monophysite. When we translate the statement that divine and human elements are united in the Church into the language of participation, and speak of the Church as participating in the grace of the Spirit, we can easily see the damage this does to the doctrine of grace at a very crucial point.”
“The meaning of Pentecost is determined by the great evangelical facts that lie behind it, for they made possible this new mode of the Spirit’s activity. It is in the Incarnation and the Atonement that we learn the secret of Pentecost. With the Incarnation, God the eternal Son became man, without ceasing to be God and without breaking communion with the Holy Trinity with which God lives his own divine life. In the birth and life of Jesus on earth human nature and divine nature were inseparably united in the eternal Person of God the Son. Therefore in him the closed circle of the inner life of God was made to overlap with human life, and human nature was take up to share in the eternal communion of the Father and the Son in the Holy Spirit. In this one Man the divine life and lover overflowed into creaturely and human being, so that Jesus, Man on earth, received the Spirit of God without measure, for the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him bodily. Jesus became the Bearer of the Holy Spirit among men.
But who was Jesus? He was very Man, our Brother. In him the Holy Son of God was grafted on to the stock of our fallen human existence, and in him our mortal and corrupt human nature was assumed into union with the Holy Son of God, so that in Jesus, in his birth and sinless life, in his death and resurrection, there took place a holy and awful judgment on our flesh of sin, and in atoning sanctification of our unholy human existence It was only through such atonement that God in all his Godness and holiness came to dwell in the midst of mortal, sinful man. Because that took place in Jesus who made our flesh of sin his very own and who wrought in himself peace and reconciliation between man and God, he became not only the Bearer but the Mediator of the Holy Spirit to men.”
“It was through the power of the Spirit that Christ himself was born among us, lived his life of holy obedience and worship, gave himself in sacrifice for the sin of the world, rose again and ascended to the Father to be for ever the one offering and prayer that prevails for all mankind. It is through the power of the same Spirit who came down at Pentecost that we are united to Christ in his identification with us, and joined to him in his self-consecration and self-offering for us once and for all on earth and eternally prevalent in heaven. Jesus Christ who took our nature upon him has given to God an account for us, making atonement in our place, and in our name had yielded himself in sacrifice and worship and praise and thanksgiving to the Father. We have no other answer to the will of God, no other offering, no other response or worship, for without Christ we can do nothing. Jesus Christ is our worship, the essence of it and the whole of it, and we may worship God in the Spirit and in Truth only as we are made partakers in his worship. The Spirit which Christ breathes upon us then becomes the Spirit of our response to him and through him to the Father.”
Theological Science (T & T Clark LTD, 1969)
“The organic unity unity of theology goes back in Christ to the unity of the Godhead, but in the nature of the case theology cannot, and must not try to seek knowledge of God apart from His whole objectivity, divine and human, in Jesus Christ. Therefore the modes and forms of our theological knowledge must exhibit an inner structural coherence reflecting the nature of Christ. Moreover, it is because mystery belongs to the nature of Christ as God and Man in one Person that it would be unfaithful of us not to respect that mystery in our knowing of Him and therefore in our systematic presentation of our knowledge. It is upon this fact that every attempt to reduce knowledge of God to a logical system of ideas must always suffer shipwreck.”
“How is this truth known? It is not known timelessly as the necessary truths of reason are known, nor is it known only historically as other historical events are known, but known according to its two-fold nature as eternal and historical, as the movement of the eternal in time, a movement that takes our time seriously, and has for ever taken it up, sanctified and healed, into union with itself. There is, therefore, a twofold movement here, the movement of the Eternal becoming temporal, without ceasing to be Eternal, and the movement of the temporal in inseparable union with the Eternal without ceasing to be temporal. Knowledge of this truth must be analogous to that two-fold involution of movement in Truth. To behave in terms of it the reason of man must act or move, not just sit back and think in repose, and actually participate in the movement it seeks to know”
“In Him we have the power of the life of God in human form, but thought it is translated into a fully and perfectly human life that human life is hypostatically united to the life of God. His human and divine natures are united inseparably in one Person. The miracle of the Incarnation is not simply that God has come in Jesus, but that in Jesus God has come as Man, and that the human life and action of Jesus are unique in their oneness with the life and action of God. Thus his power to act is not other than the power of His person, the power by which He lives His own personal life. His action and His personal Being are inseparably one, for His power is personal in itself for in His actions the hypostasis of Jesus is fully present. Thus He is not known apart from His acts, nor His acts apart from His Person. His power is the life which He lives as God, and His Life is His Person in Action, but as the incarnate Son, a Life and a History, and it is in and through the power of that Life and History that He acts upon us, as the Lord and Saviour of our life. It is in that sense that the incarnate Son says, I am the way, the truth and the life, no one cometh unto the Father but by me.’ He is ‘the Way,’ the way in which He lives His Life and uses His Action, and as such is the way in which He turns to us in the overflowing of His divine Life and Love and gathers us into communion with Himself. The way in which God lives His Life toward us in Jesus, and which He acts toward us in Him, is His Grace. Because His power is His Life, His own personal Being and Living, he makes Himself known to us and available to us, redeems and saves us by condescending to bring His own divine Life within our life and living it with our life as a human and a human history, and yet He who lives this human life and has this human history is none other than the living and eternal God, who by joining His Life to our life has come to stand in for us, to be the Life of our life. As such He is the Way and the Truth for us and therefore also the Life. In all that He does, He is Truth for us, the living Truth, who makes Himself present and accessible to us, who meets and gives Himself to us, and yet does not come under our control, for He does not cease to live His own divine Life. The Truth of God is He who has turned to us in the Life, Actions, and Words of Jesus Christ in order to reconcile us to God and redeem us into communion with the divine Life. The Truth of God is Jesus Christ in the whole of His Life and History, the Truth for us as the Way and the Life in and through which alone we may go to the Father.”
“Several aspects of the nature of Christ the Truth, which we have already considered, are nomothetic for our understanding of the essential framework of theological knowledge and the kind of relations that obtain within it.
(a) We begin with the Grace of Jesus Christ—that is, with the condescension of the Truth of God to become incarnate and freeky to give Himself to us. The whole movement of the Truth of God beginning to end is one of pure Grace toward us and never ceases to be Grace even in our knowing of the Truth. This means that we must acknowledge the unconditional priority of the Truth and the irreversibility of the relation He establishes with us. For example ‘the Word became flesh’ cannot be reversed ‘the flesh became the Word’ without falsification. The action of the Truth belongs to its nature as the Truth and can be only known in accordance with that action. When God gives Himself to us as the object of our knowledge He does not thereby cease to be Subject or hand over the control of that knowledge to the human knower—He remains throughout the Lord. the God—man, Lord—servant relationship is not reversible in fact, even when formal statement in human speech may require grammatical reversal. We may well say, ‘We know God,’ but when on the ground of this actual knowledge we go on to make the further statement, ‘therefore we are able to know God,’ we cannot truthfully detach this ‘knowability of God’ from the actual fact that God in the freedom of His Grace gives us knowledge of Himself, and so predicate it or ourselves. Strictly speaking the knowability of God can be predicated only of God, for it is grounded in His divine freedom and nature, but it may be predicated of man on the ground of the divine Grace and as reflexive of the self-giving of the Truth in Grace. This unconditional priority of the Truth and the irreversibility of His relationship may called the Logic of Grace, that is the way in which we are bound to think the Truth in accordance with His nature and action as Grace.
(b) This incarnate Truth confronts us in Jesus Christ as true God and true Man united in one Person. He makes Himself known to us as One who has already established in Himself relation between God and man and man and God, and therefore is truly known only in accordance with this union in His nature. It is this relationship within the Person of Christ between His divine and human natures (called the hypostatic union) that provides the normative relationship for every theological statement where the relationship between God and man is involved. Thus whenever our knowledge of the Truth is properly ordered it will reveal a structure in its material content that reflects the Christological pattern of the hypostatic union. that is the interior logic of the theological thought, logic that arises under the impact of the Object, that is impressed upon our knowledge of God from its basic frame of reference in Jesus Christ, logic that informs and guides all scientific thinking in this field
(c) We cannot forget here that the divine and human natures of Christ are united in One Person and that this Person is the One Word of God. He is the Truth of God in the form of Personal Being, Word of God identical with His Person. Since He is Person and Word the forms of knowledge that arise in us are correspondingly personal and verbal (or propositional). Since He is Person of God, the personalising Person, personal forms of reflection are begotten in us as we are obedient to Him. Since He is Person and Word in One, conformity to Him in Person and conformity to Him in Word are one and indivisible in us. Therefore we do not just learn of Christ, we learn Christ. We think a Person, the Person, and in doing that we are adapted to personal thinking and gain true subjectivity. He certainly communicates truths to us, but they are truths that inhere in His Personal being and are not detachable from Him. They are truths that cohere together through inhering in Him and are truly known only in that cohering and inhering in His Person. Understanding of them is gained in dialogue in what we might call ‘personalogical’ relation to Him. Because these truths are essentially of a personal kind, they are related to one another in an interpersonal way, that is, in love, for love is the inter-personal mode of relation. this is not love as emotion but love as the form of personal union. It is this personal logic, the logic of love inhering in the Truth that comes to view in our theological knowledge as we learn to behave according to the nature of Object, Jesus Christ, that is, as we learn to love Him objectively.
(d) We have now to consider a fourth aspect of the incarnate Truth of God which is nomothetic for our understanding of theological logic—its permanent and essential form in space and time. Because the Truth has entered into our creaturely existence and has become historical, because He lives and acts in space and time, He is only known in active, living, temporal relation to Him.This is living Truth, Truth that has come into our human life and has taken up our time and life into Himself, Truth that is identical with the whole life and activity of Jesus Christ. He does not first become living and active by entering into our space and time and sharing in our human life, but in and through doing that He reveals that living and acting belong to His being as the Truth of God. What He is toward us He is eternally and antecedently in Himself, but He is in Himself He is toward us within our life in space and time. In Himself and toward us He is the Way, the Truth and the Life. The Truth of God is what He is in the whole of His incarnate life and work, in His self-communicating to us and His self-giving for us. We cannot know this Truth unhistorically or statically, therefore, by seeking to pass behind or beyond His action and life in time to what we may imagine to be the Truth in Himself, for there is no other Truth of God for us than this Truth in life and action who decisively intervenes in our human plight. He is not to be found or known except as He gives Himself to be known in space and time, that is, as He becomes flesh, as He lives His life in time and action on earth for our sake, as He dies upon the Cross for our salvation, and as He rises again from the dead for our justification. The truth of God cannot be separated form the whole historical Jesus Christ, for time, decision, action, history bleong to the essential nature of this Truth. Therefore we cannot apprehend or consider the Truth in detachment form relations in space and time without downright falsification. The Truth of God in Jesus cannot be know except in a way analogous to His nature, that is through relation to the Truth in time and space, in history and action. Knowing the Truth involves our part a corresponding movement of space and time, a dynamic, living, active relationship, a constant historical communion with the Truth and learn the Truth increasingly, so that there can be no genuine knowing the Truth or speaking the Truth without doing the Truth. The living Truth requires a kinetic mode of knowledge and thought.”
It is the Logic of Christ. This is the other side of the Logic of Grace, for it is the logic of Grace of the Lord Jesus Christ that is the manifestation of the Logic of God. It is from considering it from this angle that we may discuss the actual pattern of that logic, not only its movement and action.
Here we may begin in a different way, by thinking of all the truths or doctrines of the faith as forming an organic whole, cohering in one body in the unity of the faith, with its own essential pattern. We do not seek to impose a pattern upon theological knowledge but rather to discern the pattern inhering in its material content, or to let it reveal itself to us as we direct our questions toward to find out its central frame of reference. When we do that we are directed to Jesus Christ, to the Incarnation, to the hypostatic union, the unique togetherness of God and man in Christ which is normative for every other relationship between man and God. By the hypostatic union we must not think of some static relation but rather of the union between God and man in the one Person of the Son running throughout all His historical life from His birth to His resurrection. It is the whole life of the incarnate Son, the historical, crucified and risen Jesus Christ that forms the core or the axis of the body of Christian theology. It is from that centre that we take our bearings as we consider the doctrine of the Trinity, of the Father and of the Holy Spirit as well as of the Son, and therefore of creation as well as of redemption—for this is the mystery hidden from the ages and now revealed in the Gospel, that in Jesus Christ all things consist and are gathered up. The other doctrines of the faith, the Church, the Sacraments, man and the last things, etc., all have their place and their truthfulness by reference to this central point in Jesus Christ. The one supreme personal relation is the hypostatic union, the unique relation of divine and human natures in the One Person of the Son, but by reference to that personal relation, all other personal relations are to be understood in their likeness and in their difference to it. It is here then in the inner life and being of Jesus Christ, in the hypostatic union, that we discern the interior logic of theological thinking, the logic of Christ, the logic that is in Christ before it is in our knowledge of Him, the logic that inheres ontologically and personally in Him but which is reflected noetically and sacramentally in us in the conformity of our life and thought to Him and in the directing of them through Him to God the Father.”
“In the religious experience of knowledge we work with the principle of the faithfulness of God, and we live and plan our lives accordingly. But we keep meeting evil and suffering which rise up before us as manifestations of disconnection and disorder in the nature of things and we shocked at their deformity, i. e. their contradiction of rational form. And os we are driven to meditate upon them more profoundly for even disorder argues for order, seeking to reduce our understanding to of experience to fuller intelligibility. We still believe that God is reliable and faithful, and that form and order belong to the fabric of the universe, and that behind creation and fall there remains God eternally and infinitely loving and wise. From the point of view of logical form there is a grave disconnection between the goodness and power of God and the facts of evil and suffering in the creation; for faith this element of incoherence is a problem only vis-a-vis ultimate coherence; faith insists on asking whether this is not to work with a superficial notion of uniformity, in which or formalisation of things has been allowed to run ahead of the fact and impose a false and illusory unity on them, e.g by deriving a notion of ‘omnipotence’ through a logical construction out of the kind of power that find in nature, brute force, formalising its abstract possibility to the nth degree, and then setting beside it a notion of ‘infinite goodness’ derived in a similar way through logical construction and projection out or our common ideas, only to find that they contradict each other in the face of the evil and suffering of our world. It is in the Cross of Christ, however, that faith penetrates deeply into its understanding of the faithfulness of God, for there He is found at work in the depth of measureless evil and the unappeasable agony of mankind overcoming contradiction, achieving reconciliation and bringing unity through atonement. Hence theology is forced to reconstruct the notions of power and goodness as applied to God, from what God has done and does do, instead of from hypothetical possibilities that are logically detached from the facts of existence and have run us into perilous error through their formalisation.”
“Because it is with God that we have to do here theology cannot be isolated and made independent of the total claims of God upon man and of the total response of man to those claims. Theological science us not therefore a special science in the sense in which all the other special sciences are bracketed off in their own specialisations. Special sciences by their very nature deal with multiplicity and are properly separated off from each other in accordance with the particular aspects of being to which they are devoted and the nature of the evidence that obtains in each field of enquiry, so that direct criss-crossing from the one to the other violates their scientific procedure. But theological science has for its primary object the one God who is the source of all being and the ground for all truth, and as such it is concerned with a wholeness and unity that does not characterise any other special science. It is only within that wholeness that theology as a science has its right place, but it is no less scientific because it must operate within the total response of the believer to God, for to do anything else would mean a refusal to behave faithfully in terms of the nature of its proper object and therefore a betrayal of its true objectivity. This alone makes theological science unique among the sciences because it is more than a particular science, more than disciplined, controlled and accurate knowledge within some limited field, but it can be scientific knowledge of God, only if it is more than scientific knowledge in the ordinary sense. That is to say, theological science is not simply explanatory in terms of itself as a special branch of knowledge among others, but is explanatory only in relation to the one Truth of God in His total claims upon us and in His ultimate purposes for us and all creation.”
“We must remind ourselves here again that in its very character as pure science Christian Dogmatics is committed to a divine mission. This arises out of the nature of the object, as objectum docens, object that proclaims, interprets and defines itself, and therefore instructs us in our knowledge of it, assimilating in our knowing to its own activity and mission. As we have seen, it is the presence and activity of the divine Word in the object of our knowledge that makes dogmatic science in theology different from any other dogmatic science, for here the positive and right forms of knowledge and statement we have to make about the object emerge not only from the pressure of its being upon us but out of its intrinsic doctrinal nature and intention, i.e., out of objective dogma. Hence the scientific structures of dogmatics, its compound analogues and disclosure models, or doctrinal formulations, are not simply the theoretic instruments through which the objective reality is discerned with some exactness and precision, but the hermeneutic media through which it is heard in its own self-interpretation and articulated in our disciplined response to it. It must be granted that the essential teaching that issues out of the nature of the object and breaks through to us gets broken up in the prismatic activity of our knowing and articulating so that dogmatic constructs result, corresponding to ecclesiastical dogmas. We cannot take these transcripts of the Word of God but as orderly, scientific relations of our relations with the Word through which we must allow the objective reality to reveal itself to us in its own essential harmony and meaning, yet always in such a way that it is sharply distinguished from our dogmatic constructs or dogmas. That is the objective dogma toward which they tend and to which they intend to direct us. Here, then, in Christian Dogmatics dogma takes the place of the basic logical concept, or the ultimate unity and simplicity, which we strive to reach in our scientific enquiry in other fields, while dogmas take the place of the agreed and accepted scientific principles wit which we operate as we advance our knowledge in the construction of theoretic models in order that we may penetrate through them more and more into rationality and order embedded in the nature of things.
We are now in a position to re-express the nature and function of Christian Dogmatics in a more explicit way in accordance with its material content.
hhhhOn the one side,, dogmatics is concerned with the objectivity given fact of God’s self-communication: His divine Being in active and rational revelation in Jesus Christ. Dogmatics inquires into that but can never bring it under its mastery—rather it is dogmatics that inquiry opens up the space or makes room in the life and understanding of the Church for the momentous self-disclosure of His transcendent Reality and Being. It is the inquiry which allows the fundamental datum of revelation breaking through to us in the form of dogma to manifest itself and impart itself to us in divine power and grace. This dogma into which we inquire is both profoundly simple and inexhaustibly rich. It is the irrefragable unity and is yet infinitely creative and expansive. It is out of that fullness that the Church receives.
On the other side, dogmatics is concerned with the Church’s hearing, acknowledgement and deepening grasp of that which has addressed it and engages it, grasped it and continues to hold it. It seeks to pierce through all doctrinal formulae to reach a condensed understanding by the whole historical Church in its faithful obedience to the incarnate Word, and to articulate it in positive, dogmatic statement. The original datum, God’s Act and Grace in Christ and His Gospel, continues to communicate itself to us throughout history, and as it is mediated and as its mediated to each generation through human agents; it continues to act creatively upon the Church in history, calling it to a profounder understanding and fuller obedience. Hence in each generation dogmatics throws the Church back on its proper object, seeks to open up a way through all historical articulations and formulations of the Truth for a better and more appropriate hearing of God’s Word, in order to lay bare the basic unity, the germinal and staple Truth in its foundation in Jesus Christ, in the Holy Trinity. As in this way we refine and deepen the focus of faith and knowledge in the Church and formulate its recognition and acknowledgment of the Truth in dogmatic statements, they have behind them the concentrated understanding of the whole people of God in its witness to the one Reality of God. Thus dogmas in the proper sense are never private formulations but are the corporate recognition-acts of the Church, with historical depth and ecumenical range, and yet they point to, and are determined by, the One indivisible dogma, the Truth and Act of God in Jesus Christ the incarnate Word, who as such cannot be resolved into statements. That is the objective depth or the ontological density of dogma.”
God and Rationality (Oxford University Press, 1971)
“It is essentially a similar movement of thought that engages us in theology, although here we are up against a different kind of rationality, not Number but Logos. But if in the scientific investigation of the world we consider that our thought has made contact with the real nature of things when we can bring our knowledge to a consistent and enlightening mathematical representation through which the inherent rationality of the world imposes itself upon us, so in scientific inquiry into the ways and works of God we consider that our thought has made genuine contact with the divine Reality when we can bring our knowledge to an intelligible and enlightening unity through which the Logos of God Himself presses itself convincingly upon our minds. We direct our questions to the self-giving of God in Jesus Christ and allow our minds to fall under the power of the divine rationality that becomes revealed in Him. It is reality inherent in the reality of the incarnate Word before it takes shape in our apprehension of it, but as we allow it to become disclosed to us under our questions and find that it is opened out before in an objective depth that far transcends what we can specify of it in our formulations and yet is infinitely fertile in its illuminating power, we become caught up in a compulsive affirmation of it that is rational through and through. This is what we mean by scientific theological thinking, from an objective centre in the givenness of God, rather than in popular mythological thinking, from a subjective centre in ourselves, in which we project our fabricated patterns and ideas upon the divine Reality and will accept only what we can conceive in terms of what we already know or what fits in with our own prior self-understanding.”
“This has certainly been one of the most persistent difficulties in Scottish theology. In Calvin’s Catechism we read: ‘Since the whole affiance of our salvation rests in the obedience which He has rendered to God, in order that we might be imputed to us as if it were ours, we must possess Him: for His blessings are not ours, unless He give Himself to us first.’ It is only through union with Christ that we partake of His benefits, justification, sanctification, etc. That is why in the Institute Clavin first offered an account of our regeneration in Christ before speaking of justification, in order to show that renewal through union with Christ belongs to the inner content of justification; justification is not merely a judicial or forensic event but the impartation to us of Christ’s own divine-human righteousness which we receive through union with Him. Apart from Christ’s incarnational union with us and our union with Christ on that ontological basis, justification degenerates into an empty moral relation. That was also the distinctive teaching of the Scots Confession. But it was otherwise with the Westminster Confession, which reversed the order of things; we are furst justified through a judicial act, then through an infusion of grace we live the sanctified life, and grow into union with Christ. The effects of this have been extremely damaging in the history of thought. Not only did it lead to the legalizing, or (as in James Denney’s case) a moralising of the Gospel, but gave rise to an ‘evangelical’ approach to the saving work of Christ in which atonement was divorced from incarnation, substitution from representation, and the sacraments were detached from union with Christ; sooner or later within this approach where the ontological ground for the benefits of Christ had disappeared, justification became emptied of its objective content and began to be re-interpreted along subjective lines. It is because this is the state in which so many people in this country find themselves today that they become such easy prey for the reductionist notions of the Gospel that reach us from the Continent. We Protestants require to go back in our tracks in order to recover something we lost in our reaction against Roman error, how to interpret the work of Christ from His Person rather than the other way round. Unless we do that we will inevitably interpret both the work and the person of Christ from out of ourselves.”
“In Jesus Christ the Word has become physical event in space and time, meets us in the indissoluble connexion of physical and spiritual existence, and it is to be understood within the co-ordinate levels of created rationality. The unity in God between Person, Word and Act has been made to overlap and gather within its embrace the differences between person, word, act in the creature, so that they are allowed to mediate God’s Word to man in time through a oneness between Christ’s human utterance about God and God’s self-utterance to man. Expressed otherwise, in the hypostatic union between God and man in Jesus Christ there is included a union between the Word of God and the word of man, but in such a way that far from being displaced in some Apollinarian fashion the word of man is fully and finally established in its genuine humanity through the regenerating and humanising work of the Word made flesh.”
“Sacramental response has its place within the all-embracing response of faith to the proclamation of the Word of God and share with it an inner relations to the Word through their joint inclusion within the covenanted faithfulness of God incarnated in Christ. Although He is equally active in Word and in Sacrament, a significant distinction must be noted. The conjunction of the Sacraments with proclamation means that Christ will not allow the Word proclaimed to return to Him void but insists on actualising in us the promises of redemption and regeneration that are extended to us in it. Thus the Sacraments themselves proclaim that as the Word made flesh Jesus Christ is effectively at work among us not only in the unity of His divine and human natures but in unity of His spiritual and physical human being, healing and reintegrating man’s broken and divided existence. Thus whereas faith corresponds more to the activity of the Word as event, for by their nature the Sacraments have to do do with our physical as well as our spiritual being; we are baptised in body as well as in soul, and it is into our bodies that we take the bread and wind, feeding upon the Body and Blood of Christ and not just upon His Word and Spirit.”
“The divine Being who acts upon us in our knowledge of Him is not dark or mute Being but eloquent Being: God speaking in Person, God uttering or speaking Himself. We have already noted that God’s Being is His Being-in-His-Act, and His Act is His Act-in-His-Being. Now we have to take a further step, and not that His Being and His Word are related in the same way, for His Act is His Word and His Word is His Act. In His own essence God is articulate Being—Word is not incidental to God, not some detachable emanation from Him, but His own Being in action, for in His Word God communicates not something of Himself, nor just something about Himself, but Himself. His own eternal Being is wholly and inseparably involved in His Word, and His word is backed up by and filled with His Being. This is where we are concerned with the propriety of the Spirit to the Father and the Son, for its is through the Spirit of God that He utters His Word, and through the Spirit that the Word comes to us as dynamic communication and creative event. The Holy Spirit who is the consubstantial Communion of the Father and the Son in the Trinity, is the Spirit through whom the Word was flesh in the hypostatic union of the divine and human natures in the Person of the Son, but it is the same Spirit whom we have union with Christ and partake of the communion between the Father and the Son and the Son and the Father.”
Theology in Reconciliation (The Catholic Book Club, 1975)
“Earlier in this discussion we noted that the mystery of the Eucharist is to be understood in terms of our participation through the Spirit in what the whole Jesus Christ, the incarnate, crucified, risen and ascended Son, is in Himself, in respect both of his activity from the Father towards mankind and of his activity from mankind towards the Father. If we are to understand aright what is traditionally spoken of us as ‘the eucharistic sacrifice’, it will be important to discern how these two aspects of Christ’s one saving work are related to each other, his self-giving to men and his self-offering to God. The first aspect of that saving work takes the form of the incorporation of the Son of God into our humanity, becoming bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh, in order to identify himself with us to the uttermost, penetrating into the disobedient and corrupt condition of our human being, in order to pour out the love of God upon us, take away our sin and guilt, and endow us with divine holiness. But this saving work is not simply a mighty act of God upon us. In order to fulfil its end in restoring human being to proper sonship in the image of God, it has to be translated into terms of human life and activity. Hence the Son of God came not simply to act in man but as man, and so his saving work took on a second aspect matching the first, in which he so shared our human being and life from birth to death that what he accomplished in us and for us he accomplished as issuing forth from our human being and life as our own act towards God, consecrating himself for us that we might be consecrated through him, offering himself in holy obedience and atoning sacrifice to God for us that we, through sharing in his self-offering, may offer to God through him a holiness from the side of man answering his own. Both his manward and this Godward movement in the saving work of Christ are essential, for neither is what it is without the other, but in so far as we are concerned with the Eucharist, in which we ‘do this in amamnesis‘ of Christ, it is the Godward aspect that in prominent in it, that is, our participation through the Spirit in the self-consecration and self-offering of the whole Christ, body, soul and mind, to the Father in atoning reconciliation for our sakes. The measure in which we take this Godward movement in Christ and in ourselves seriously, is determined by the integral and essential place we give to the mind and will of Jesus in his divine-human agency in fulfilling his work of priestly, self-oblation to the Father and in our union with him in body, mind and will in which we offer Christ eucharistically to the Father through prayers and thanksgiving in his name as our only true worship. This is what we are commanded by or Lord to do, ‘anamnesis of me,’ that is, in holy analogue to and in union with what he has done for us in his self-offering and self-consecration to the Father, for it is done in the same eternal Spirit in who he fulfilled his atoning sacrifice and now presents himself in our nature before the Father for us.”
“So far as the Cappadocians contribution to the discussion was concerned we may note two respects in which the Athanasian position was strengthened against the Apollinarian position. Both points are clearly expressed by Gregory Nazianzus in his first letter to Cledonius against Apollinaris. First, he makes clear that what ‘Christ has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to the Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell then that which Christ assumes and saves may be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole of him who was begotten, and so be saved as a whole’ (Epistle 101). He goes on to show that by taking our sin and curse upon himself in the Incarnation Christ was not transformed into either of these; rather must we think of him as taking them upon himself in order to bear our sins and iniquities and take them away. He does that through his atoning sanctification, but it takes place on the principle of like for like. ‘If it was that he might destroy the condemnation by sanctifying like for like, then as he needed flesh for the sake of flesh which had incurred condemnation, so too he needed mind for sake of mind, which not only fell in Adam, but was the first to be affected.’ Since Christ took upon him what needed to be saved, he took mind upon him. Gregory added to this, however, a second point, to meet the Apollinarian argument that there could not be two minds or two wills in the one Incarnate Son. He pointed out that that would be to think in physical terms, as in the case of two physical objects which cannot be accommodated in the same space. But it is otherwise with the nature of intellectual existents which can combine with one another differently, and where two ‘wholes’ can unite without excluding one another. Nazianzus thought that out in relational terms. ‘What is perfect by comparison with one thing may be imperfect by comparison with another.’ Relatively to ourselves our minds may be complete and in command of soul and body, but that does not hold absolutely, for in relation to God they are incomplete and imperfect. However, while they are incomplete in themselves in relation to God, they are completed beyond themselves in God, so that instead of thinking that human minds and wills are crowded out by the presence of God, as Apollinaris imagined, we must think of them as reaching completeness in him and thus as being established as human minds and wills. Properly speaking, therefore, in the Incarnation the presence of complete God does not mean the absence of man, or the presence only of incomplete man, but rather the presence of man in his completeness as man in God. This was the point otherwise made by Athanasius’ main point that since the Son of God did not just come into man but came as man, yet without ceasing to be God, the subjection in the Incarnation occupies two roles that are not just two roles or modes but real natures. On the other hand, by combining the two points they did make, the Cappadocians were able to take even more seriously the Pauline teaching that Christ took upon himself fallen human nature, ‘flesh of sin,’ ‘the body of death,’ while at the same time sanctifying and recreating it. This was well expressed by Gregory Nyssa: ‘For though he took our filth upon himself, yet he is not himself defiled by the pollution, but in his own self he cleanses filth. For it says, the light shone in the darkness, but the darkness did not overpower it.’ ‘He therefore who came for this cause, that he might seek and save that which was lost (i.e. what the shepherd in the parable calls the sheep), both finds that which is lost, and carries home on his shoulder the whole sheep, not just the fleece, that he might make the man of God complete, united to the deity in body and soul. And thus he who was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin, left no part of our nature which he did not take up into himself.’ Though the latter was written against a similar error in Arianism, it applies also forcibly to Apollinarianism.”
“The worship which characterised the whole life and obedience of the Incarnate Son in the form of a servant, and fulfilled in a heavenly mode in which Christ continues to exercise his priesthood as man, or according to the form of man (κατὰ τὸ σχῆμα τὸ ἀνθρώπινον), is essentially spiritual. As Jesus himself taught, while pointing to himself as a human worshipper of God among us, it is worship in spirit and truth (ἐν πνεύματι καὶ ἀληθεία. Cyril interprets that to mean that it is worship appropriated to the nature of God who is Spirit, and thus worship that transcends the legal and carnal worship of the Jews in Old Testament times. It is worship belonging to the whole sphere of life in Christ in which we are justified in the Spirit through union with Christ, and not by the works of the Law or of the flesh. To the elaboration of this Christian reconstruction of worship Cyril devoted, as we have already noted, a complete work, Peri tes en pneumati kai aletheia proskyneseos kai latreias, commonly known as the De adoratione, in which the Old Testament rites, not least those connected with the tabernacle or temple, and the dual functions of Moses and Aaron, were ‘mystically’ reinterpreted to point to Christ’s own mediatorial ministry, as Apostle and High Priest of our confession before the Face of the Father. Throughout the work Cyril goes out of his way to stress the noetic or spiritual nature of Christian worship in sacrifice and sacrament, contrasted with the external and physical rites of the Old Covenant. That does not import the rejection of physical acts in liturgical worship, or of the need to embody devotion in deeds and good works, but rather the rejection of institutional substitutes for worship of God in spirit and in truth. After the glorification of Christ and the coming of the Spirit liturgical acts have essentially a typical and indicative function, for they direct us to the actual leitourgia and latreia which Christ fulfilled on our behalf, in which all the prayers and devotions of the faithful ar gathered up and vicariously mediated through the self-consecration and self-presentation of Christ to the Father.
Again and again Cyril relates the vicarious worship and prayer of Christ to the command to let the mind that was in Christ be in us (τοῦτο φρονεῖτε ἐν ὑμίν ὃν καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ, with reference to Philippians 2:5f. As if it was though the kenosis of the Son in which he took upon himself our human soul (ψυκή and mind (νοῦς) that he became Priest and Mediator on our behalf and is able to represent us before the Father, so on the other hand, it is as we are enabled to share with him his mind (φρονήμα), our human mind, (νοῦς) which has been sanctified and healed in him, that we may be associated with him in his priestly presentation of himself and of us through himself to the Father. It is upon this mental union with Christ that Cyril’s thought concentrates whenever he explains the significance of Christian worship, for Christian worship is offered in and though the Mind of Christ, that is, not primarily the Mind of the Logos or of the eternal Son, but the rational soul of Jesus, which in him is inexpressibly united to his divine Mind, and never replaced by it—hence, as we have already seen, the enormous anti-Enomian and anti-Apollinarian bias in Cyril’s theology, for unless Christ shares to the full our mental experiences, as we have already seen, they are not healed and saved in him and we have no part or lot in his self-offering to or acceptance by the Father. It is only on the ground of his mental union between us and Christ that he can be said to carry up the mind of believers (τῶν πιστευόντων τὸν νοῦν) into God. And therein is the essence of worship of the Father through the Son. It was in these terms that Cyril expounded the discourses of Jesus at the Last Supper as recorded by St John, and in particular the great high-priestly prayer of Jesus of which we are made ‘ear-witnesses’ (αὐτήκοοι) in the seventeenth chapter of the Gospel. But since Christ as Himself both God and man is the bond of union between God and man, who pertains by nature to what is mediated on both sides, his mediation of our worship in spirit and truth is carried beyond a merely external or ministerial relation into an ineffable union with God—without there being involved, however, any confusion between divine and human substance, or any loss of individuality or humanity on our part. That is to say, the intimate union with Christ in which this worship of the Father takes place, remains a union of mind between us and Christ resting on the ineffable union in him of his divine mind and the human mind which he made his own by Incarnation. It is a mental union which remains also relational so that the creature retains his own distinctive properties in which faith and love have full place. Participation in Christ’s mind as the worship which the believer presents to the Father in and through the self-presentation of Christ to the Father, does not diminish or obliterate the activity of the believer in offering worship; rather do his acts of worship come to their full expression and reality in, through and with Christ’s vicarious worship of the Father.”
“Thus as we look back over the history of worship in the Church during some of its most formative periods, in later patristic and mediaeval times, it must be admitted that in spite of the official rejection of Eutychianism and monophysitism by the Church, widespread failure to give full place to the saving humanity of Christ led to serious consequences in the approach of the faithful to God and in the liturgical practice of the Church. Although it was not often perceived, the really fatal elements derived from an Apollinarian orientation in Christology and soteriology, namely, failure to appreciate the principle that what Christ has not take up into himself from us has not been saved, together with the failure to appreciate the fact that if Christ did not have a human mind or a rational soul, the Son of God did not really become incarnate in human being, and his love stopped short of union with us in our actual condition. Such a movement of thought could only undermine the whole economy of redemption and damage the basic Christian understanding of God.”
Reality and Evangelical Theology (Westminster Press, 1982)
“A similar distinction has been drawn much earlier in Greek patristic theology between knowledge of God which he gives us through his “economic condescension” to us within the objectivities and intelligibilities of the created world of space and time, and knowledge of God as he is essentially in himself in his own internal relations. Each is coordinated with the other through the incarnation or the “human economy” which the Son of God has undertaken for our sakes—i.e., the ordered process of God’s revealing activity in space and time, in which he has extrapolated, as it were, his divine mystery within the conditions of our human nature and at the same time lifted up our human nature into union and communion with himself. Through the incarnation of his Son or Word, and in the Holy Spirit mediated through him, God the Father does not remain closed to us but has opened himself to our human knowing. Through Jesus Christ—as Paul expressed it—and in one Spirit we have access to the Father (Eph. 2.18). This meant that Christian theology had to advance beyond the traditional stress of Judaism upon the unknowability, namelessness, and undifferentiated oneness of God. In a struggle with the Platonic conception of God as “beyond all being and knowing: it was forced to unfold the trinitarian implications of the fact that God really makes himself accessible to us in his internal relations as Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”
In Jesus Christ, then, the eternal Word of God became man within this world of contingent existence and contingent rationality, sharing to the full the conditions, distinctions, and connections of space and time that characterise the thought and speech of all men, in order to be understandable and communicable as intelligible word to all men. This does not mean that he ceased to be the Word that he is in God; rather, it means that he assimilated human form within the frame of earthly life and action and speech into such oneness with himself as to constitute it not merely the earthen vessel of the Word of God but his actual speaking of it to mankind. That is to say, within the hypostatic union of divine and human nature that took place in Jesus Christ, there is included a union between uncreated and created rationality and between uncreated and created word, so that it is in the rational form of creaturely human word that Jesus Christ mediates God’s word to all mankind.
“Now if we think of Jesus Christ in this way as the Truth in his own Person, our statements about him, biblical and theological statements, cannot be true in the same sense as Jesus Christ is true, for they do not have their truth in themselves but in their reference to him away from themselves, and they are true insofar as that reference is truthful and appropriate. By referring to him away from themselves, they both subordinate themselves to him and discriminate themselves from him. A semantic relation of this kind holds good, as we have seen, in any realist relation between statements and the realities to which they refer. But if Jesus Christ is the ultimate Truth of God, as we believe him to be, must refer to him accordingly, subjecting themselves to him and discriminating themselves from him in their utter difference from him as creaturely and contingent. But if it is asked how contingent statements can refer to what is utterly different from them, we must point back to the incarnation of the eternal Word and Truth of God in Jesus Christ, for in him the Word and Truth of God meet us within our creaturely and contingent world, where they are accessible to us and amenable to our statements. The incarnation involves a hypostatic union not only between the Word of God and the word of man, the Rationality of God and the rationality of man, but between the uncreated Truth of God and created truth of this world which God has made and to which we belong. Hence in Jesus Christ we have to reckon with one who is God’s ultimate Truth and our contingent truth in the indivisible oneness of his personal Being, and therefore with one in whom God’s ultimate Truth has become humanly articulate and communicable in words and truths within the reciprocities and intelligibilities of our contingent existence in space and time. Thus when our contingent statements refer away from themselves to the Truth of God as it is in Jesus Christ, they do not have to bridge the infinite difference between the creature and the Creator in order to terminate upon that Truth, for they man refer to it in its incarnate Reality, and insofar as they are true they may actually terminate upon that incarnate Reality and thus upon the Truth of God Almighty himself.”
“The comprehensive significance of this incarnation of God’s Truth in our contingent existence is made very clear in the words of Jesus as the are reported to us by The Gospel according to John, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life: no one comes to the Father but by me” (John 14.6). Here we have the majestic I am of the self-subsistent Truth of God meeting us face to face on our side of the creature/Creator relationship and addressing us in a human statement which signifies the Truth that Jesus Christ himself is in our created being, and which at the same time refers us back in and through himself to God our Father. Thus in him the truth of signification, the truth of created being, and the ultimate Truth of God, without being confused, are indivisibly united in the oneness of his divine-human Person, and it is as such that he is the self-revelation and self-communication of God to us in space and time. In this statement Jesus Christ is communicating truth about himself and God the Father, but it is not just truth that he is communicating in these words but himself in and through that truth. He is not just someone speaking about the Truth of God uttering himself in a human statement, and yet in such a way as Man on earth before God that he constitutes in himself the perfect response of man to the self-communication of the Truth of God. He is at one and the same time Truth from God to man and truth from man to God, and as such he is the standard and norm for the formulation of all truth about God and his interaction with man.”
The Christian Frame of Mind (Helmers & Howard, 1989)
We turn now to the second of our three Hierarchs, “The Theologian,” a St Gregory was deservedly called in the ancient Church, not least for his profound insights into the doctrine of the Holy Trinity. Incidentally, the second person to be accorded that title was John Calvin who had been so deeply influenced by Gregory Nazianzen, and stood so close to him in his understanding of the Trinity, that to be called “The Theologian,” was certainly not inappropriate.
The leading idea I have selected from Gregory Nazianzen’s teaching derives from Paul’s Epistle to the Colossians, in which he spoke of human beings as alienated from God and at enmity to him in their mind, but now as reconciled to him through the body and blood of Christ. A controversy had arisen in the Church over the conception of divine-human Person of Jesus Christ advocated by Apollinaris of Laodicea, a friend of Basil. Apollinaris wanted to avoid the idea that there was a double personality in Christ comprising of a divine and a human person, which he thought could not be avoided if the Incarnation involved the union of a complete and divine nature and a complete human nature. Moreover, in view of the fact that the human mind or the ruling element in human nature was fallen and necessarily imbued with evil, he wanted to avoid any idea that in his human nature Jesus was at enmity to God and in need of moral improvement. And so Apollinaris put forward the theory that the Son of God became man in Jesus Christ in such a way that his divine Mind or Logos replaced the human mind, while nevertheless taking to himself a living human body.
That idea was challenged at once as a heretical deviation from saving faith, notably by the author of two works Against Apollinaris, which Dr G D Dragas has convincingly show must be accepted as Athanasian, and by the two Gregories, Gregory of Nyssa and Gregory of Nazianzus. They all insisted that such a conception of Incarnation and of Redemption was evangelically defective. If Jesus Christ did not have a full and complete human mind, then God did not really become man; moreover, if the principal and most needy part of human nature had not been assumed, then man’s salvation is seriously wanting and still to be accomplished. It was Gregory Nazianzen’s argument (in his first letter to Cledonius) which was decisive. “If anyone has put his trust in Christ as a Man without a human mind, he himself is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which he has not assumed he has not healed; but that which is united to his Godhead is also saved. If only half Adam fell, that that which Christ assumes and saves be half also; but if the whole of his nature fell, it must be united to the whole nature of him who was begotten, and so be saved as a whole.” This argument that ‘the unassumed is the unredeemed” had been put forward very early by St Irenaeus, who did so much to clarify and deepen the theological grasp of the Gospel in the second century and was later powerfully reinforced by Saint Cyril of Alexandria in the fifth century.”
“Let me focus the issue by referring to an ancient Greek distinction between the two kinds of demonstration reflected in St Paul’s First Epistle to the Corinthians, and taken up and developed by the Greek Fathers in the second, third and fourth centuries. They frequently adduced it in elucidation of the words of Isaiah 7.9 (LXX): “Unless you believe, you will not understand,” which was later to influence Saint Augustine so much. This is the distinction between the discursive mode of demonstration found in geometry and kindred sciences, when we argue necessarily from fixed premises or axioms to certain conclusions, and the ontological mode of demonstration that arises from something utterly new becomes disclosed and our minds cannot but yield conceptual assent to its self evident reality. Such an act of assent was also spoken of as the response of faith mand in recognition and acknowledgment of a truth that seizes the mind and will not let it go. Genuine faith in God, for example, was held to involve a conceptual assent of this kind, as the human mind is allowed to respond faithfully to God’s self-evidencing revelation. But forms of demonstration were considered by Greek theology to be necessary in genuine inquiry into the truth, for while access to reality independent of ourselves is given only in the latter (ontological), it is with the aid of the former (discursive) that conceptual assent may respond more accurately and consistently to the nature of the reality apprehended. In classical geometry, however, long considered the model for scientific demonstration, form and being were held apart, so that the force of the demonstration lies in its ontological compulsion. On the other hand, when form and being are found to be not separate, but indivisibly united, the real force of demonstration lay in its purely formal connections and ontological compulsion. it is only through such an ontological grasp of things in their intrinsic intelligibility and truth that genuine advances in knowledge are made.”
The Trinitarian Faith (T & T Clark, 1991)
“Through the incarnation and Pentecost the Holy Spirit comes to us from the inner communion of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, creates union and communion between us and the Holy Trinity. In other word, the Spirit creates not only personal union but corporate communion between us and Christ and through Christ with the Holy Trinity, so that it is the Holy Spirit who creates and sustains the being and life of the Church, uniting the Church to Christ as his one Body. Regarded in this way, the doctrine of the Church is a function of the doctrine of the Spirit who proceeds from the Father through the S0n, for it is in him and through the Son that we brought near to God and are given to share in his divine life, light and love. Just as we have to regard the incarnation of the Son and Word of God as a movement of saving love of God which penetrates into the ontological depths of our creaturely existence in order to redeem us, so we must regard the activity of the Holy Spirit as actualising our union and communion with God through Christ in the actual structure of our human, personal and social being. The church as the Body of Christ is not to be regarded as merely a figurative expression, but as expressing an ontological reality within humanity which affects the whole of the human race.”
“Of quite fundamental importance for Nicene theology were the words of our Lord reported by St Luke and St Matthew: ‘All things have been delivered to me by my Father; and no one knows who the Son is except the Father: and no one knows who the Father is except the Son and any one to who the Son chooses to reveal him.’ Careful examination disclosed that the mutual relation of knowing between the Father and the Son, to which we have had to refer already, involved a mutual relation of being between them as well, and not only between the eternal Son and the Father but between the incarnate Son and the Father. This implies that we are given access to the closed circle of divine knowing between the Father and the Son only through cognitive union with Christ, that is only through an interrelation of knowing and being between us and the incarnate Son, although in our case this union is one of participation through grace and not one of nature.
The stress on cognitive union with the incarnate Son of the Father was greatly reinforced by Pauline teaching about adoption and union with Christ and Johannine teaching about mutual indwelling between us and Christ. For Nicene theology, then, the mutual relation of knowing and being between the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ constitutes the ontological ground for our knowing of God, for in and through our knowledge of God the Father is objectively rooted in the eternal being of God himself. Thus through union with Christ we are given access to knowledge of God as he is in his own being.”
It was in this tradition that Athanasius presented his early account of incarnational redemption in which he linked so closely together the personal and the ontological. Through his incarnation the Son of God has made himself one with us as we are, indeed made himself what we are, thereby not only making our nature his own but taking on himself our lost condition subject to condemnation and death, all in order that he might substitute himself in our place, discharge our debt, and offer himself in atoning sacrifice to God on our behalf. Since sin and its judgment have affected the actual nature of death as we experience it, Christ has made our death and fate his own, thereby taking on himself the penalty due to all in death, destroying the power of sin and its stronghold in death, and thus redeeming or rescuing us from its dominion. No explanation was offered why atonement should take this form beyond the requirement to make restitution and reparation which had to be regarded as wholly fitting and reasonable. The crucial point to be noted here is that the traditional biblical language about atonement was sued of what takes place within the incarnate being of the Son of God and in his ontological solidarity with mankind.”
“For the theological development of this rich biblical conception or redemption we have to turn to Irenaeus. With him ti was the g’l mode of redemption that was most pervasive for its supplied the general frame within which the other two modes of redemption (pdh and kpr) had their powerful significance. The emphasis was clearly upon the Person of Christ as Redeemer who through the incarnational union with the human race, and on the ground of the covenant bond which it actualises in kinship and friendship, reconciles us to God and brings us into union and communion with him. Here it was the ontological aspect of the atonement that was uppermost, as in the doctrine of saving recapitulation of our human nature in Christ and its restoration through his vicarious obedience. It was within this union of Christ with us, and in and thought what he is in himself as Mediator between God and man, that Irenaeus thought of the pdh mode of redemption as operating, but not by any violent or unjust means. As he interpreted it, redemption was the mighty and victorious intervention of God on our behalf, rescuing us from the tyranny of Satan and delivering us from the thraldom of evil and death, but it took place through the blood of Christ in atoning expiation of guilt and in the reconciliation and justification of the sinner.”
The Mediation of Christ (T & T Clark, 1992)
“Perhaps the most fundamental truth we have to learn in the Christian Church, or rather relearn since we have suppressed it, is that the Incarnation was the coming of God to save us in the heart of our fallen and depraved humanity, where humanity is at its wickedest in its enmity and violence against the reconciling love of God. That is to say, the Incarnation is to be understood as the coming of God to take upon himself our fallen nature, our actual human existence laden with sin and guilt, our humanity diseased in mind and soul in estrangement or alienation from the Creator. This is a doctrine found everywhere in the early Church in the first five centuries, expressed again and again in terms that the whole man had to be assumed by Christ if the whole man was to be saved, that the unassumed is unhealed, or that what God has not taken up in Christ is not saved. The sharp point of those formulations of this truth lay in the fact that it is the alienated mind of man that God had laid hold of in Jesus Christ in order to redeem it and effect reconciliation deep within the rational centre of human being.”
“Since the relation of the Son to the Father belongs in the union and communion of love which God eternally is in his own Being as Father, Son and Holy Spirit, the Incarnation of the Son in which God gives himself to mankind takes the form of a ‘hypostatic union’ between divine nature and human nature in his one Person, which is the immediate ground for al Christ’s mediatorial and reconciling activity in our human existence. They hypostatic union is grounded in, derived from and is continuously upheld by what is called the ‘consubstantial communion’ within the Holy Trinity, that is, the mutual indwelling or coinhering of Father, Son and Holy Spirit as three Persons of one and the same Being in God. that is a union in which divine nature and human nature are united in Christ in such a way that there is no diminishing or impairing of his divine nature and no diminishing or impairing of his human nature.
At the same time there is a union which is projected, as it were, into the actual conditions of our estranged humanity where we are in conflict with God, so that the hypostatic union operates as a reconciling union in which estrangement is bridged, conflict is eradicated, and human nature take from us is brought into perfect sanctifying union with divine nature in Jesus Christ. Embodied within the deep tensions and contradictions of our rebellious humanity, the hypostatic union took the form of a dynamic atoning union which steadily worked itself out with the structures of human existence all through the course of our Lord’s vicarious earthly life from his birth to his crucifixion and resurrection. Incarnation and atonement, were internally and essentially intertwined in all he became for our sake and all he underwent in paying the price for our redemption. The forces of darkness did their utmost to divide the Son from the Father by breaking his trust in God and diverting him from the way of the Cross, through temptations that were all the more fearful as they were put to him in the very ground of his divine Sonship, temptations to which he was subjected not only in the wilderness immediately after his Baptism or through his earthly ministry, but above all in Gethsemane and even on the Cross itself. But he resorted resolutely to prayer in anguished cries and tears and overcame them. From beginning to end Jesus lived a life of such purity and integrity, such faithfulness and truth, that his incarnate Sonship stood the strain imposed upon it by the sin of the whole world and the Father’s judgment upon it. The hypostatic union of divine and human nature in the oneness of his Person, far from succumbing to the onslaughts of the evil one, triumphed over them all, until through atoning expiation for sin Jesus Christ broke through the ultimate barrier of death and condemnation that separates man from God, and complete his mediation of reconciliation in his resurrection from the grave.
It should now be clear that hypostatic union and atoning union implied and interpenetrated each other in Christ’s mediation of reconciliation to mankind. The hypostatic union could not have been actualised within the conditions of our fallen humanity without the removal of sin and guilt through atonement and the sanctification of human nature assumed into union with the divine. On the other hand, atoning union could not have been actualised within the ontological depths of human existence where human beings were alienated from God without the profound penetration into those depths that took place through the Incarnation and the hypostatic union between the divine and human nature that it involved. that is what came about in Jesus Christ, the Mediator, in whom atoning union and hypostatic union served each other. yet it is not atonement that constitutes the goal and end of that integrated movement of reconciliation but union with God in and through Jesus Christ in whom our human nature was not only saved, healed and renewed but lifted up to participate in the very light, life and love of the Holy Trinity.
The Christian Doctrine of God (T & T Clark 1996)
“The incipient credal formulations which we find emerging in Irenaeus’ theological interpretation of the truth of the Gospel and his elucidation of the order implicit in the fundamental deposit of the Faith, already manifest the essential trinitarian features of the Church’s understanding of God’s self-revelation as it eventually came to formal expression in the Nicene Creed. However, in the place and preponderance given to the Christological formulae by Irenaeus, it is evident that it was at this point, in the indivisible union between God and man in the Person of the Mediator and in the oneness in being and agency between the incarnate Son and the Father, that Irenaeus found the central connection in the inner structure of God’s self-revelation upon which faith in God the Father, and in the Holy Spirit hinged, for in a significant sense they are presented as functions of faith in Jesus Christ the incarnate Word and Truth of God through whom and in whom we have access to the Father in one Spirit. That was clearly a feature that left its mark upon the developed organisation of the credal articles in which most of the clauses were devoted to Christ and his saving work, although that was due, of course, not simply to Irenaeus but to the general biblical tradition and the consensus of the Church in the full unfolding of the baptismal creed – particularly in the East – into the Creed of Nicaea and Constantinople. So far as Irenaeus himself was concerned, however, what was particularly needed was an appropriate conception and form of speech to give the key connection between God and man embodied in the person and work of the Mediator appropriate theological expression. Quite clearly he was groping for adequate terms with which to express what came to be called ‘the hypostatic union between divine and human natures in Christ. So far as the oneness between the incarnate Son and God the Father is concerned, however, he did not put forward any formal expression for it, doubtless because he felt that here we have to do with an ineffable relation in God which he retains in the unfathomable mystery of his own eternal Being. Like Clement of Alexandria and Origen, Irenaeus was familiar with the expression ‘of the same being’ (ὁμοούσιoς, eiusdem substantiae) which was later appropriated by the Nicene Fathers to express the key concept in the Christological heart of the Creed, but he himself did not use it to give expression to the mediating bridge between God and man in Jesus Christ.”
“The supreme truth of the Deity of Christ, the only begotten Son of God, true God from true God, on in being and of the same being with the Father, was undoubtedly the great concern that occupied the mind of the bishops and theologians at the Council of Nicaea when the credal formulation it produced, in spite of heated discussion, clearly arose out of a profound evangelical and doxological orientation. It was composed by the Fathers, so to speak, on their knees. Face to face with Jesus Christ their Lord and Saviour they knew that they had to do immediately with God, who had communicated himself to them in Jesus Christ so unreservedly that they knew him to be the very incarnation of God; they not only worshipped God through and with Christ but in Christ, worshipping God face to face in Christ as himself the Face of God the Father turned toward them. Jesus Christ the incarnate Son is the God whom they worshipped and loved in the ontological and soteriological mode of his personal self-communication in the flesh, so that in their union and communion with Christ they knew themselves to be in union and communion with the eternal God. They knew that if there were not bond in Being and Act between Jesus Christ and God, the bottom would drop out of the Gospel and the Church would simply disappear or degenerate into no more than a social and moral form of human existence.”
“We may express this two-fold movement of revelation and reconciliation in another way by saying two things.
a) Since the Father-Son relation subsists eternally within the Communion of the Holy Trinity we must think of the incarnation of the Son as falling within the eternal Life and Being of God, although, of course, the incarnation was not a timeless event like the generation of the Son from the Being of the Father, but must be regarded as new even for God, for the Son of God was not eternally Man any more than the Father was eternally Creator.
b) Correspondingly, since in Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God became man without ceasing to be God, the atoning reconciliation of man to God must be regarded as falling within the incarnate life of the Mediator in whose one Person the hypostatic union and the atoning union interpenetrate one another. We shall consider the nature of the Person of Christ later in terms of the patristic couplet anhypostasis and enhypostasis, but at the moment, let us think of the relation of the Lord Jesus Christ the incarnate Son of God within the Holy Trinity absolutely and relatively.
Considered absolutely in se, he is true God of true God and indeed, as we have noted above, there resides in him the fullness of the Father, that is, as Athanasius expressed it, ‘the whole Godhead’ (ὁλόκληρος ἡ ότης). He is ‘whole God of whole God’ (ὅλος ὅλου), for everything that God the Father is, the Son is, except his being ‘Father’. ‘The whole Being of the Son is proper to the Being of the Father’, and ‘the Being of the Son is the fullness of the Father’s Godhead.’ Hence Athanasius could say repeatedly that the Son shares perfectly and fully in the one Being of the Godhead. When considered in himself, he is himself very God, and has his divine Life from himself. ‘For as the Father has life in himself, so he has given to the Son to have life in himself.’ Considered relatively, however, ad alium, in relation to the eternal Persons of the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son in his own particular Person is distinct from the Father and the Spirit, yet of the same equal being with them so that he constitutes hypostatically with them the eternal Communion of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, three Persons, one Being. Each divine Person retains his unique characteristics as Father, Son, or Holy Spirit, in a union without confusion, for the individual characteristics of each of the three Persons do not separate them, but constitute their deep mutual belonging together. There is no Son apart from the Father, and the Holy Spirit, and no Father, apart from the Son and the Holy Spirit, and no Holy Spirit apart from the Father and the Son. Homoousially and hypostatically they interpenetrate each other in such a way that each Person is distinctively who he is in relation to the other two.”
“A proper understanding of the Holy Spirit, therefore, does not carry with it a concept of psychological inwardness in our experience of him or a concept of subjectification of the Spirit in the life of the Church. While corresponding to the mutual indwelling of the Spirit and the Son in the Holy Trinity there arises through the tw0-fold mission of the Son and Spirit an indwelling of the Spirit and the Son in us and an indwelling of us in the Father through union with them, this is essentially an ‘objective inwardness.'”
“Our receiving of the Spirit, therefore, is not independent of or different from the vicarious receiving of the Spirit by Christ himself but is a sharing in it. Since he received the Spirit in the humanity he took from us, we on our part receive the Spirit through union with him and through him with the Father. That was the point Athanasius had in mind when he wrote: ‘Our being in the Father is not ours, but is the Spirit’s who is in us and dwells in us . . . It is the Spirit who is God, and not we viewed in ourselves.'”
“Crucial to this experience of ours in the Spirit is the inherent relation in Being and Act between the Spirit and the Son: for us to be in the Spirit or to have the Spirit dwelling within us means that we are united to Christ the incarnate Son of the Father, and are made through this union with him in the Spirit to participate, human creatures though we are, in the Communion which the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit have among themselves and are in themselves. In other words, we must think of our being in the Spirit in the incarnate economy of God’s saving acts in Jesus Christ as deriving from and grounded objectively in the homoousial Communion of the eternal Spirit and the eternal Son in the Holy Trinity. In this two-fold movement of the Holy Spirit from above and from below, along with the two-fold movement of the incarnate Son in receiving the Holy Spirit and giving him to us, we must think once more of the theologia and the oikonomia as bearing internally and reciprocally upon one another.”
It is particularly to the teaching of Jesus himself as given to us in the Gospel according to St John, followed up by St John in his first Epistle, that we must turn for the biblical account of the mutual movement of love immanent in the Holy Trinity, or the indwelling of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in one another. It is to the connection between the Communion within the mystery of the Holy Trinity and the great mystery of godliness manifest in the flesh, in the hypostatic union in Christ, that our thought turns here, for it is in the incarnation of the Son of the Father in the Lord Jesus Christ that the inner trinitarian Life of the Love which God is has been thrust revealingly into our human existence and life, and it is through our union with Christ in the Spirit that we participate by grace in the eternal Life and Love of the Holy Trinity. It is, then, the indivisible relation in Being and Act between the Persons of Son and the Father actualised and manifested in the saving economy of Jesus’ life and work in history that constitutes, so to speak, the axis on which there revolves our understanding of the Love that eternally flows between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, that is, the axis of the oneness between the ‘I am’ of Christ and the ‘I am’ of God, or the dwelling of the Son and the Father in one another. It is in and through that indwelling that the ultimate mystery of the mutual indwelling of the three divine Persons in one God becomes disclosed to us, for it is through the Communion of the Holy Spirit sent to us by the Father that we may participate by grace in the Communion of the Father and the Son with one another, and thus in the Communion of the Holy Trinity.”