Wednesday, July 20, 2011

More Reformed Scholastic Christology: Incarnate Person but not Nature? Huh?

Moving on from our earlier discussion of Reformed scholastic Christology, there is the distinction which the Reformed make between the incarnation of the person vs. the incarnation of the nature.  For the Lutherans, since the person and nature are inseparable, the divine nature is incarnate in Christ.  Moreover, being that the divine nature and the divine attributes are inseparable, the divine essence communicates itself to the human nature and thereby deifies it (genus majestaticum). By contrast, the Reformed scholastics claimed that it is the divine person and not the divine nature which is incarnate.  They argue that for the divine nature to become incarnate would constitute the incarnation of all three persons of the Trinity at once.  Moreover, talk of the "nature" becoming incarnate leads the idea of a fusion of the two natures into a single hybrid essence (Eutychianism).  Of course, this also means that in the hypostatic union there is no real communication of attributes (at least as Lutherans understand it), but merely a functional one (they accept Christ's redemptive mediatorship functions through a single theanthropic action of the God-man).  The major difficulty with this is of course that traditional Trinitarian theology teaches that the whole of the divine essence is present in each hypostasis of the Trinity.  Hence, the divine person of the Son and the whole of the divine essence are identical.  Part of the problem here might be the influence of Nominalism.  According to Nominalist Trinitarian theology, the divine essence is the "name" for what the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are together.  This is odd because although the Reformed scholastics were as electric with their use of earlier philosophical traditions as were the Lutherans, they leaned more heavily than Lutheran on Thomism as a source for their ontological thinking.


  1. Really enjoying these Reformed/Calvinistic compared to Lutheranism. Thanks!

  2. So, why do the Reformed think this way? What leads them to confess this? Can Reformed theologians say that God in Christ died on the cross?

  3. Raymond, The Reformed simply stand within the tradition of western Christology started by Pope Leo in his Tome. The tendency of western Christology is to divide the person of Christ. Read Aquinas and you basically get the same thing. Luther breaks with this and stands in the tradition of Eastern Christology (this is what my MA thesis was about).

    To answer your second question, yes they can. Notice that what they reject is the idea that divine glory is communicated to the man Jesus. Hence the denial of the communication of natures. For them though, the person is unified and therefore they agree with us that all actions taken by either nature are properly predicated by the total person. Interestingly enough Zwingli denied this, but later Reformed (starting with Calvin) agreed with the Lutherans on this point and claimed that Christ was mediator according to both natures- something Aquinas, Augustine, and Zwingli all denied.

  4. Divine essence cannot be adequately described in words, although many people have tried to do so. There are 40 mentions of divine essence in "the greatest achievement in life," my ebook on comparative mysticism. Here are 10 of them, quoted out of context:

    (10) In the mystical tradition of religions, we can directly experience the divine in this life by giving up our ego and individuality to be in the soul, then consciously sharing in the unitive divine essence.

    (17) Most mystics say that each of us is born with the essence of the divine; sin is our separation from the divine, ignoring or not seeking our soul. Mystics view atonement as accepting at-one-ment; it is reuniting with our soul and the One divine essence in All.

    (46) Union with the divine, however, surpasses knower, known and knowing; it is to be at one with the divine essence. It is sharing in universal consciousness.

    (56) We each erect many emotional, mental and/or physical barriers to help protect us from unwanted guests. Divine essence is just outside your door, but when you keep it closed it cannot come in to transform your life.

    (58) Many of them said that the divine essence is nothing, i.e. no thing, that it is immanent in all things, yet it is transcendent to everything. Some mystics equate grace, love and spirit with the divine essence.

    (60) Perhaps we can renterpret, and adjust, that formula to help clarify the correlation between divine Essence, matter and consciousness: E = mc^f(x). Divine essence...emanates and sustains universal matter (mass/energy: visible/dark) and cosmic consciousness (c^f(x) raised to its greatest power). During suprarational consciousness, and beyond, mystics share in that essence to varying extents.

    (61) Intuition plays an important role in the mysticism of all religions; it gives an insight into the divine essence. Looking within, greater consciousness of our own divine essence enables us to realize it in all matter.

    (74) When cosmic consciousness, or only yours, is completely aware of universal matter, or that which you can perceive, they transform into One divine essence, or that essence you can be aware of in this life. When that divine essence is manifested, it is partially apparent as matter and consciousness, including you.

    (77) Surface soul is like this self’s reflection in the divine; conscience opens soul’s depths to reflect the divine essence in this self’s life.

    (82) True mystics feel wholeness often. It is not a temporary absorption in divine union. Rather, it is identifying with the divine essence everywhere. Living, for them, usually expands beyond their own immediate sentiments, thoughts and sensing.

    Some mystics called it the essence of the Godhead, al-Haqq (Truth, Reality) underlying Allah, the Dharmakaya (Buddha-nature or formless essence), Saccidananda (being-consciousness-bliss) of Brahman, or the ayin (no-thing-ness) of HaShem