Doctrine of Christ (part 6)

September 25, 2011     Time: 00:34:06

We have been talking about a proposed Christology, or a proposed model, for understanding the person of Christ. I said this would involve three planks, or theses, in the model. I am not suggesting, again, that this model is true but simply that it is possible and that, therefore, it shows that objections to Christ’s being truly human and truly divine on the basis of this being incoherent or logically impossible fall to the ground.

The first plank, you will recall, was to agree with Chalcedon that Jesus Christ is one person who has two natures – a human nature and a divine nature – and each of these natures is complete, so that we stay solidly within Chalcedonian orthodoxy. We reject Kenoticism and any notion that Christ, in the incarnation, divested himself of his divine attributes.

Plank Two – The Logos was the Rational Soul of Jesus

Let’s go to the second plank, which is more controversial. I want to agree with Apollinarius that the Logos was the rational soul of Jesus of Nazareth. It seems to me that the strength of Apollinarius’ Christology, or understanding of the incarnation, was that there needs to be some common element between the divine nature and the human nature if we are to have a genuine union in Christ. Otherwise you just get two natures that are sort of glued together like two boards that are glued together but don’t really merge into one thing. It seems to me that the strength of Apollinarius’ view is that he saw there needed to be some common element that would link the divine nature and the human nature together, and he found this in the mind of Christ, or what I will call the soul. Here I am not differentiating, as Apollinarius did, between the soul and the mind. I am talking simply about that self-conscious, immaterial aspect of humanity that can be called the soul or the mind or what have you. I am not making a differentiation between soul and mind, as Apollinarius did. What I am calling the soul he would have called the mind.

You remember that Apollinarius was condemned by his fellow church fathers because they felt that Apollinarius had not achieved a true incarnation. Christ did not have a complete human nature. They also thought that he undercut the work of Christ because if Christ did not have a human mind, then the human mind would not be saved – that which is not assumed is not saved. Are these objections insuperable or can we reformulate Apollinarius’ view in such a way as to overcome these objections? Well, let’s try.

Some of the church fathers denounced Apollinarius because he would refer to the Logos as the “archetype of humanity.” The Logos was the archetypal man. Some of his colleagues thought that Apollinarius meant that the flesh of Christ somehow preexisted in the divine nature. But I think Apollinarius might have been more subtle than this. What Apollinarius might have meant is that the Logos contained human personality archetypally in his own nature. That is to say, the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, already possessed those attributes which would be essential to personhood when unified with a human body. I think one can derive some support for this from the doctrine of creation of man in the image of God. As Christians, we believe that man is made in God’s image, as it says in Genesis 1:27. Obviously, that doesn’t mean in God’s physical image because God is spirit. God doesn’t have a body. So it is not the human, fleshly body that is in God’s image; it must mean the immaterial aspect of man1. The soul, or the person, is in the image of God. We are finite persons, just as God is infinitely personal. So, insofar as God is personal, he already has, and is the archetype for, the properties that go to make up human personhood.

In order to have a complete human nature, therefore, the Logos would simply have to bring those properties into conjunction with a hominid body. Then you would have a complete human nature. So far from denying that Christ had a complete human nature, it seems to me that Apollinarius could argue that on his view it is precisely in virtue of the union of the flesh with the Logos that Christ has a complete human nature. The animality, or the fleshly part, is brought by the body, but the immaterial part is brought by the Logos, and when they are united together, then you do have a complete human nature composed of both body and soul. So the human nature of Christ is complete. He has a body and a soul. And it is because the Logos is personal that he can be the archetype of humanity and bring to the flesh just those properties that would make it into a human person.

This understanding of the incarnation nullifies the objections that were lodged against Apollinarius’ original formulation. First, on this view, Christ is both truly God and truly man. That is to say, he has all the properties of the divine nature – all the properties that the Logos had prior to the incarnation – but he also has all the properties that belong to a human nature. He is like human beings in all respects except sin. So he would have the same sort of individual human nature that Adam had prior to the fall, which was uncorrupted by sin. He is all that God is and all that man ought to be. Because of this, Christ can be called truly human and truly divine. On this view, I think we can put it this way: Christ had a soul which was truly human, but it wasn’t merely human. He was truly human but not merely human, that is to say, he was also divine.

Because of that, his work in redemption of humanity is sufficient for saving all of the human nature. He has a complete nature. He has both a body and a soul and therefore he is fully identified with our humanity, and therefore his atoning work on behalf of mankind is efficacious. On this view Christ does have a true human nature that is complete, body and soul, and therefore he is able to save human nature both body and soul.

Notice on this view the individual human nature which is the man Jesus of Nazareth – that body/soul composite that walked about the hills of Palestine and along the shores of Galilee – that individual human nature could not have existed apart from its union with the Logos because if you take away the Logos, there is no soul left. So that individual human nature could not have existed apart from its union with the Logos. It is only in union with the Logos that the human nature of Christ becomes complete and is a person. If we imagine – suppose the Logos had chosen to indwell or take on a different body than the one that he in fact took on – suppose he took on the body of, say, J. P. Moreland. In that case, it would not have been the case that J. P. Moreland was the Son of God. Rather J. P. Moreland in that case would not have existed. It would just be that the Logos now had a body that looked like J. P. Moreland rather than one that looked like Jesus. But it would not have been the case that J. P. Moreland was divine. That individual human nature – the body/soul composite that was Jesus of Nazareth – could not have existed apart from its union with the Logos because the Logos was the soul of that individual human nature Jesus Christ. So it doesn’t really make any sense to talk about somebody else being the Son of God other than Jesus of Nazareth2. That is the second plank of this model.


Question: Did the human soul/nature of Christ exist from the beginning?

Answer: Well, I would say it exists from the moment of conception.

Followup: No, but, from the beginning of Christ – from eternity. Did the human nature exist . . .

Answer: The Logos has always existed eternally. The Logos is a member of the Trinity.

Followup: Right, but the human soul – the soul part you are referring to.

Answer: It is like this. That person has always existed, but it didn’t become a human soul until it was conjoined with the body of Jesus. It would be like: I have always existed but I don’t become a father until, say, I have a child. I am still the same person. So that person, yes, has always existed, but that person wasn’t the soul of Jesus of Nazareth until the conception in Mary’s womb.

Question: So you said that the soul is actually human? The divine Logos was a human – human in nature?

Answer: Yes, the way I put it is – it is truly human but not merely human.

Followup: I remember an objection from Philip Fernandez, who said when you die and your soul is separate from your body, is your soul still a human soul?

Answer: Yeah, that, I think, is the most powerful objection to this view. Suppose the body dies and the soul is separated from the body. Does the human nature of Christ cease to exist at that point? I want to say, no. Think of your own soul when it is separated from the body. Is that still a human soul when you die? How is that different than an angelic soul once it is disembodied? I think the answer would be that it is still a human soul because it was connected with a body. It was once part of a body/soul composite, and now the body has died, and so it still is a human, unembodied, or disembodied, soul. Similarly, I think with Christ – because of the union of the Logos with the flesh, even during that brief interim of time when the flesh was dead prior to the resurrection, the soul of Christ is still a human soul because it was the soul of that body.

Followup: Doesn’t that blend the properties together though? He has two natures – a divine nature and a human nature. Is that soul part of his human nature? But it is divine!

Answer: Yes, I think that is right. The soul of Christ, I am saying, is divine, it is the Logos, but it is also a constituent of the human nature. So his human nature is truly human – the human nature does not begin to exist until the conception in Mary’s womb because the human nature is a body/soul composite. That composite thing doesn’t begin to exist until the conception in Mary’s womb. But it had a divine component in it which is the soul, or the second person of the Trinity.

Question: I have always thought of Jesus as a kind of Adam 2.0 – what he should have been before he screwed up. But what I am wondering is how you are defining “human” and “human nature” and how you are differentiating that from “divine” and “divine nature.”

Answer: Remember when we started out this discussion, we said that Aristotle thought that human nature is rational animality – it is to be a rational animal. The church fathers, I think, all agreed with this conception of human nature. We have an animal element – that is to say, our biological bodies, which are somewhat similar to the bodies of, say, other primates. But then we also have this rational component, which is the soul, and that makes us persons. So to be a human being is to be a rational animal. It is to be this body/soul composite. That is how I am using this word “human nature” here.

Followup: As for the divine?

Answer: Well, the divine nature would be defined by those attributes that we talked about when we did the Doctrine of God section of this class – omniscience, omnipotence, eternality, aseity, necessity, and so on and so forth3.

Question: Do you think the Tertium Quid objection 4 is a good objection here . . . about a third thing being produced? Kind of along the lines of what a previous question was saying – something not human, not divine. . . are you O.K. with that and the uniqueness of Christ? Is there anyway you can be a little more clear on divine within human . . . you understand what I am saying?

Answer: I think so, although I am not sure what more to say than what I have already said. It seems to me that what we have in the Logos, the pre-incarnate Logos, you have there attributes like rationality, self-consciousness, freedom of the will, intelligence – all these personal properties. When that Logos takes on a human body, that union produces a human person or a person who has a human nature. There is an individual human nature there, namely, that body/soul composite. That composite is contingent, it is limited in space and time, it has all the properties of humanity. But the soul, I would say on this model, is divine. That part of it is divine, even though the whole thing of which the part is a part is not divine. The whole thing is a human nature, but it has a divine part. I think you can see it is far from Kenotic because I am not saying that the divine nature gave up any of its properties. On the contrary, it brings to the flesh just those properties that will make that composite a rational animal.

Question: Clarify something you said earlier – I didn’t quite catch it. It was, what part of Christ’s nature couldn’t exist separated from the Father or the Spirit? You said something...

Answer: I think what I said was that body/soul composite, Jesus of Nazareth, who walked around Galilee, would not have existed apart from the Logos’ union with the flesh. It is not as though the Logos could have left Jesus of Nazareth and there would be this purely human person Jesus of Nazareth still living and walking around and talking and so forth. That is what I meant.

Followup: And then when he was not human, but not merely human. . . so that opens the door for, well, the Holy Spirit raised him, would he be powerful enough to raise just humans. That says, was he fully human? To me the solution for that is when he took sin upon himself he became just like us, cut off.

Answer: Well, what I am saying with the expression “truly human but not merely human” is that he is truly human in that his human nature has all of the attributes that go to make up humanity – the ones that we just talked about in response to a prior question. But he is more than that; so he is truly human but even more. He is also divine. I would say that about his soul as well. The soul is truly human but it is not merely human.

Followup: The Holy Spirit raised him and the same power that raised him will raise us.

Answer: At least on my model, the Holy Spirit wouldn’t come into this in any kind of Christologically significant way. The Holy Spirit might be involved in empowering Jesus and strengthening and guiding him; but in terms of understanding the union of these two natures, I don’t think we need to bring in the Father or the Spirit in order to try to understand how these two natures are connected in the person of Christ.

Followup: What I guess . . . he is just merely human after he takes sin upon himself on the cross?

Answer: Oh no, no! Your question was, “Was he merely human after he took sin upon the cross?” Not at all! In fact, that would be Docetism. Certain Docetists thought that when Christ was crucified, the divine element, the Spirit, departed from Christ and just left the man Jesus there to die on the cross and be killed and crucified. This is not at all docetic in that way. The deity and humanity of Christ are united so long as the body and soul are united in Christ.

Question: In just looking at the Scripture, “the Word (Logos) became flesh and dwelt among us.” Then you look in Genesis and “the Lord God walked with man.” 5 So he had a body. Then when you look at the book of Luke, how what Gabriel said to Mary, it is so clear in verse 35: “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’” So in Genesis you see that God could walk in a body with man – is that true? And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us but always holy and always fully God. So I am a little confused in what is being said here.

Answer: With regard to the Genesis passage, I think it is doubtful that that is to be taken literally. I do not think that that story, which is told in a very pictorial way, is probably meant to be a literal description of God walking about in the garden with them as a physical human being. Now that is possible – God can certainly take on some sort of human form or something of that sort. But God – I mean in the Old Testament – is a spirit who creates the entire universe. He is not some sort of a physical being that normally has a body.

Followup: What about the Lord God walking with the two angels talking to Abraham, sending the two angels down to Sodom and Gomorrah. So obviously, there is time that God walks with man in some kind of form of a body.

Answer: Yes, there are these theophanies in the Old Testament where God will give appearances of himself in these bodily forms – that is true. But think again about – is it the second commandment? – that says you shall make no bodily image of God, no sort of representation of God because God isn’t a sort of physical thing that can be captured in a picture or a statue. He is incorporeal – he doesn’t have a body. I would take those passages to be either just sort of temporary, visionary experiences that God gave them or some sort of temporary appearance that God would make or to be just pictorial, metaphorical. But in either case, I am not sure how this would affect anything that I have said.

Followup: I am trying to bring together that God can walk as a body and certainly when Jesus walked the earth forty days after he was in a resurrected body. So we see this body being present, and there is certainly incidents of human form of the Lord God walking with man.

Answer: I think we have that already in John, chapter 1, the verses you quoted about how the Word became flesh and walked among us and we beheld his glory. These Old Testament theophanies are not really necessary because you already have in the New Testament the teaching that Jesus was the Word incarnate.

Followup: One more question – also when it says Isaiah saw him high and lifted up in the form of a body, Daniel saw him high and lifted up. So there is some kind of body present in the Lord God.

Answer: What that means is that God can appear in bodily form to people. But it doesn’t mean that God is a physical thing because there are so many other Scriptures that indicate that God is spirit and that he created everything else – time and space and matter. So these are just manifestations, as it were, of God’s presence in a visible, physical way.

Question: I would still make the case for the spirit being the Logos because all the way through the Scripture it talks about the spirits of just men made perfect. “Into your hands I commend my spirit,” Jesus said. Same thing with Stephen, and you have this all the way through. The soul is volition, cognition, and emotion, and that is an imprint of being and that is married to the spirit, especially for us when we pass on before the resurrection. Then I don’t know if we can untie our spiritual lessons from the resurrected body, but apparently Christ can because there is a verse that said . . . I was going to look for it in a concordance, but he says I have a body and I can pick it up and lay it down. So apparently you are able to disassociate that spiritual lessons which is spirit and ... I am a trichotomist in that . . .

Answer: OK, so when you used the word “spirit” you didn’t mean Holy Spirit, you meant the human . . .

Followup: No, I meant human . . . 6

Answer: Yes, well, then, what you are expressing is this model. This is exactly . . . I wound up defending the view you had enunciated a couple of weeks ago that this immaterial part – you call it spirit, I’m calling it soul, Apollinarius called it mind – that this was the second person of the Trinity that then assumed a human body or flesh.

Question: How then would you relate that to the natural conception of a human? In other words, God’s being the Father and Mary. Something happened . . . like we read in Luke 1:35 . . . I’m thinking of a Muslim and how they would think about this. They are insulted by the idea of Jesus’ being the Son of God implying there was a physical union of God and a woman. So is this Traducianism where the spirit comes from the male father?

Answer: You are getting into the question of the origin of the human soul. Is the human soul a special creation of God at the moment that it begins to exist or are the souls of the parents, or the father, as you said, the progenitor of the soul of the child? Are souls birthed, so to speak, from previous souls or are they special creations? In this case, at least, it would be Creationist and not Traducian because it would be the case that the Logos is the soul of Jesus of Nazareth. The Logos takes on human flesh in Mary’s womb, as the Logos unites with whatever genetic material that Mary may have contributed to Jesus.

Question: Would you consider in this model “knowledge” and “omniscience” to be two separate attributes?

Answer: No, I think knowledge is a facet of omniscience. So this would mean that Jesus is omniscient. Now the question that you are raising is: but how, then, can you have a realistic picture of Jesus in the Gospels if he’s omniscient? Did the baby Jesus, lying in the manger, know the infinitesimal calculus and quantum mechanics and the color of Mary’s sweater on October 16, 2010? Did the baby Jesus know all those things? Well, that is what we will talk about next time – how to put those things together. But I do want to affirm, yes, on this model, Jesus is omniscient.

Question: I certainly don’t understand what we are trying to do here. But let me just say this, in defense of us who are convinced that he was both 100% man and 100% God. I don’t have a good way to explain it, but I do know that he came so that he could hurt, he could cry, he could feel pain. If he had blisters on his hands from carving wood, they hurt. So he could better . . . although he knew everything, but to really demonstrate his love for us, he had to become like us. But there was something going on with him because we know he talked to the Father, but when he was like 12 years old and they could not find him and he tells his earthly mother and father, “Don’t you know I had to be about my Father’s business?” . . . already somehow his spirit, he may not have known at that time the deity that contained within him, maybe it grew as he grew, but there was an awareness in his own self at that time that he was completely different than what else was going on around there. I don’t know how to explain it. I just know that I believe that he was both of those.

Answer: All right! In answer to your first Question: the project that we are trying to do here is to provide a model, a theory, for understanding how what you just said can be the case – that we are not affirming some hopeless contradiction. Let me try to draw a picture that may try to help. Imagine this triangle is, say, the Father, the Holy Spirit, and the Son. That is God: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. And each of these is a self-conscious person, as we saw in our discussion of the Trinity. Now suppose the Son takes on a human nature7. In that case, that person is aware of his own divinity. The soul of that person is the second person of the Trinity. That is what I am suggesting. It is not really difficult! It is just saying that that immaterial aspect of his being was the second person of the Trinity. The Logos took on a human, fleshly body, and so it was God walking around in human flesh. Now that raises these questions that were brought up a moment ago – how can you explain – if this person is omniscient – how can you have a realistic picture of the life of Jesus? That is the question that we will talk about next time.

Question: In 1 Thessalonians 5:23, Paul makes the statement, “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul, and body be kept blameless . . .” I want to ask you if your model can account for this spirit. Now spirit is pneuma and it is, elsewhere, it enables man to perceive the divine and it is regenerated when a person is saved apparently. And then psyche, of course, is the soul and, in one of the explanations that I got, it said the sphere of man’s will and emotions, the true center of his personality, it gives him a self-consciousness that relates to the physical world through his body and to God through the spirit. Elsewhere, in other Pauline writings, he breaks down psyche into self, ego, mind; but my question is – what about the spirit? Would Christ then need a spirit, since in this case a spirit enables us to communicate with God and has to be regenerated?

Answer: This gets back to the question that someone was just raising. On that view, and on Apollinarius’ view, man has three elements to his being: the body (which is the physical stuff), the soul (which is the sort of animating principle of the body that makes it alive – as you said, it relates to the physical, biological organism), and then the spirit, or what Apollinarius called the mind. The mind and the spirit are the same thing for Apollinarius’ anthropology. I am not distinguishing between spirit and soul in my vocabulary. I am just using the word soul to describe some immaterial aspect of man. But if you want to break it down into soul and spirit, that’s fine. Then you are just more like Apollinarius was, holding that Christ had an animal body, an animal soul, but then he had a divine mind or spirit. This really does not affect the model; in fact, it actually is closer to Apollinarius’ view by having trichotomy in its analysis of human being rather than dichotomy. But I would not want to give people the impression that this model depends upon trichotomy with regard to human personality. All it depends upon is that human beings have at least two aspects to their being – they have a physical part and they have an immaterial part. That is all. And the immaterial part, on this model, is the Logos, the second person of the Trinity.8


1 5:07

2 10:16

3 15:07

4 Tertium Quid is Latin for “third thing” and refers to some unknown third element that is in some way related to, but distinct from, two known things. In 4th century Christological debates, it refers to Apollinaris’ view that Christ was neither human nor divine, but rather a “third thing” which was a mixture of the two.

5 20:02

6 25:01

7 30:00

8 Total Running Time: 34:05 (Copyright © 2012 William Lane Craig)