The Threefold Gift (Hooker’s Christology, Pt. 3)

Having established in V.52 the personal identity of the Logos with the incarnate Jesus Christ, and in V.53 the unaltered integrity of the two natures in the person, communicating their attributes to the person but not to each other, Hooker turns in V.54 to offer an important qualification to the doctrine of V.53, explaining how it is that the human nature of Christ is perfected by its union with the divine.  We might say that V.52 represents the asymmetrical side of the hypostatic union, V.53 the symmetrical side, and V.54 a move back toward asymmetry.  The chapter is entitled “What Christ hath obteined accordinge to the flesh, by the union of his flesh with deitie.”

Before addressing this particular question, Hooker outlines three senses in which Christ is “a receyver”:

“first in that he is the Sonne of God; secondlie in that his humane nature hath had the honor of union with deitie bestowed upon it; thirdlie in that by meanes thereof sundrie eminent graces have flowed as effectes from deitie in to that nature which is coupled with it.  On Christ therefore there is bestowed the guift of eternal generation, the guift of union, and the guift of unction” (V.54.1)  

In other words, one might say, receptivity is not alien to the Son, but proper to him (as McCormack might put it, though arguing in a rather different direction than Hooker is here); Christ first receives eternal generation as a gift from the Father, before he receives anything in the incarnation.  Hooker has no qualms about asserting that the Father is autotheos: “Seinge therefore the father alone is originallie that deitie which Christ originallie is not (for Christ is God by being of God, light by issuinge out of light) it followeth hereupon that whatsoever Christ hath common unto him with his heavenly father the same of necessitie must be given him, but naturallie and eternallie given, not bestowed by waie of benevolence and favor, as the other guiftes both are” (V.54.2)

Now, before going on, we may note that there is a bit of an oddity here.  For when we speak of the first gift, the receiver is the Logos, clearly.  But in the second two cases, the receiver is the human nature, and the Logos, it would seem, is the giver.  But the human nature is not a hypostasis capable of receiving a gift, not, at any rate, until it is coupled with the Logos, which act is the second gift described above.  So in the first gift, the Logos is given to, in the second gift, the Logos gives himself, and in the third, the Logos gives from himself (in his divinity) to himself (in his humanity).  There would thus seem to be some logical problems in treating the three gifts as parallel.  

Of course, Hooker does recognize some distinctions–let’s pay careful attention, and see whether he resolves this tension.  The first gift is distinct from the latter two, in that it is given naturally, the latter two by grace.  “Touching Union of Deitie with manhood it is by grace, because there can be no greater grace showed towardes man then that God should voutchafe to unite to mans nature the person of his only begotten Sonne.”  Here then this appears to be a gift not to Christ per se, but from God to man.  Hooker proceeds to make it somewhat more precise: “As the father hath life in himselfe, the Sonne in him selfe hath life also by the guift of the father [i.e., the gift of eternal generation].  The guift whereby God hath made Christ a fountaine of life is that conjunction of the nature of God with the nature of man in the person of Christ [i.e., the gift of union]….The union therefore of the flesh with deitie is to that flesh a guift of principall grace and favor.  For by vertue of this grace man is reallie made God, a creature is exalted above the dignitie of all creatures and hath all creatures els under it” (V. 54.3).  It is then clearly the flesh assumed that is the beneficiary of this second gift, and as Hooker has already showed (in V.52) that the flesh (that is, human nature) assumed is not a particular human nature, but “that nature which is common unto all,” then the “guift of union” is a grace that is showed to human nature as such, that nature which we all share, which has been graced with the personal presence of God in it.  So the union is not a gift to the person Christ, but a reception on the part of that person of a gifted flesh, the giftedness of which consists in that very act of reception.  Is what sense is this a gift to the Logos?

 

After all, Hooker goes on, “This admirable union of God with man can inforce in that higher nature no alteration, because unto God there is nothinge more naturall then not to be subject to any chaunge.  Neither is it a thinge impossible that the word beinge made flesh should be that which it was not before as touching the manner of subsistence, and yeat continue in all qualities or properties of nature the same it was, because the incarnation of the Sonne of God consisteth meerlie in the union of natures, which union doth add perfection to the weaker, to the nobler no alteration at all” (V.54.4).  In other words, the divine nature of the Word cannot receive any change from the union, even if the human nature can perhaps receive “perfection” from it (here, we have asymmetry manifesting itself once again). 

“If therefore it be demaunded what the person of the Sonne of God hath attained by assuminge manhood, surelie the whole summe of all is this, to be as wee are trulie reallie and naturalle man, by means whereof he is made capable of meaner offices then otherwise his person could have admitted, the only gaine he thereby purchased for him selfe was to be capable of losse and detriment for the good of others” (V.54.4).

Now that’s some pretty sweet stuff.  The Son of God is not merely a giver in the union, but the receiver of a gift–he receives a new capacity–the capacity to be made lowly, to be capable of loss, to give himself up.  This is the grace of union which accrues to the Logos.  This is not a change to his nature, but it is a new property of His person.  

But Hooker does not dwell on this, much as we might like him to.  His main interest is in the change that takes place in the human nature assumed, since this was, Hooker believes, at the heart of his mission in the incarnation: “The verie cause of his takinge upon him our nature was to change it, to better the qualitie and to advance the condition thereof, although in no sorte to abolish the substance which he tooke, nor to infuse into it the naturall forces and properties of his deitie.”  He thus qualifies himself right away–it changes it, but not abolishing its substance or mixing it with the substance of deity.  He states the dialectical no change/change relation again, even more carefully:

“neither are the properties of mans nature in the person of Christ by force and vertue of the same conjunction so much altered, as not to staie within those limites which our substance is bordered withall; nor the state and qualitie of our substance so unaltered, but that there are in it many glorious effectes proceeding from so neer copulation with deitie….For albeit the naturall properties of deitie be not communicable to mans nature, the supernatural guiftes graces and effectes thereof are” (V.54.5.)

Now, this looks pretty shifty.  The human nature is in fact altered, but not so as to exceed the bounds of human nature?  The natural properties are not communicated, but the “guiftes, graces, and effectes thereofe” are?  Hmmmm…  Perhaps Hooker could be helped here by a bit of “actualism”–perhaps it’s not a matter of natural substance, but of offices and operations.  In fact, that seems to be just what Hooker has in mind–human nature is taken up into the history of God, and made to be sharers in all the honors and activities pertaining properly to the Logos:

“to be the way, the truth and the life; to be the wisedom, righteousness, sanctification, resurrection; to be the peace of the whole world, the hope of the righteous, the heire of all thinges; to be that supreme head whereunto all power both in heaven and in earth is given; these are not honors common unto Christ with other men, they are titles above the dignitie and worth of aniie which were but a meere man, yeat true of Christ even in that he is man, but man with whome it hath added those excellencies which make him more then worthie thereof.  Finally sith God hath deified our nature, though not by turning it into him selfe, yeat by makinge it his owne inseparable habitation, wee cannot now conceive how God should without man either exercise divine power or receive the glorie of divine praise.  For man is in both an associate of Deitie” (V.54.5).

Once again, this is some pretty sweet stuff.  Many Protestants (including McCormack) are quite hostile to deification language–it would seem to depend on a substance metaphysics and a substance soteriology that are alien (at least many would say) to the Protestant tradition.  But that doesn’t necessarily seem to be the case here.  Here, man is “deified” by being made “an associate of Deitie”–a co-worker of God in all that he does, a co-receiver with God in all the honors that God receives.  The change that takes place is not a transformation of nature, but a making that nature a sharer in the life, the history, of God.  Sounds pretty good to me.

 

Finally, though, we come to the grace of unction, which might be more troubling to those leery of substance metaphysics: “did the partes of our nature the soule and boddie of Christ receive by the influence of Deitie wherewith they were matcht no abilitie of operation, no vertue or qualitie above nature?”  No, says Hooker–just as a heated sword cuts both by its own sharpness and by the virtue added to it by the heat, so

“the deitie of Christ hath inabled that nature which it tooke of man to doe more then man in this world hath power to comprehend, for as much as (the bare essentiall properties of deitie excepted) he hath imparted unto it all thinges, he hath replenisht it with all such perfections as the same is anie waie apt to receive, at the least accordinge to the exigence of that economie or service for which it pleased him in love and mercie to be made man.  For as the partes degrees and offices of that mysticall administration did require which he voluntarelie undertooke, the beames of deitie did in operation allwaies accordinglie either restraine or enlarge themselves” (V.54.6)

In other words, the nature of man, without ceasing to be human nature, was made capable of operations beyond the ordinary power of human nature–this is how Hooker accounts for the superhuman knowledge of the human Christ, for the incorruptibility of his human flesh, etc.  How does this understanding not violate his qualifications, about how the human nature is not changed, does not receive the natural properties of the other nature, is not stretched beyond what it means to be a human nature, etc.?  Hooker’s qualification here is “with all such perfections as the same is anie waie apt to receive” (V.54.6)–that is to say, with the elevated perfections that human nature is somehow predisposed to receive, that human nature can receive without going beyond what it means to be human.  This qualification means that Hooker is not willing to include ubiquity as part of the gift of unction.  “Wee nothing doubt but God hath manie wayes above the reach of our capacities exalted that bodie which it hath pleased him to make his own….Notwithstanding a bodie still it continueth, a bodie consubstantiall with our bodies, a bodie of the same both nature and measure which it had on earth” (V.54.9).  So this qualification does have some real force–there is a difference between human and superhuman–even if we might wonder if it should have more force, precluding, for instance, the super-human knowledge that Hooker attributes to the human mind of Christ.  

The notion upon which Hooker is relying here is a fascinating one, and one that has always remained a subtle undercurrent in Western theology, though never properly developed here as it was in the East: human nature is not static, but dynamic; human nature is destined for, capable of, a greater perfection than that which it had at the beginning.  For human nature to transcend itself is thus not to become super-human, not to abolish human nature, but to advance into the perfection proper to it, to become in fact more human.  In Eastern Christology and soteriology, Christ is understood to have proleptically advanced our human nature to this perfection destined for it, to be the true human, more human than we are, showing us what we are to become.  Soteriology is then about us treading that pathway into fuller humanity, becoming like God but not therefore becoming less human.  There is I think a significant hint of this in Hooker, and this is why he thinks he can say that the human nature receives added perfection from the divine, but not so that it becomes any less a human nature, however, I think it remains only a hint, since there is nowhere in the Lawes anything in the way of a systematically-developed anthropology that would provide the necessary grounding for this understanding.  (That would have to wait for Nevin. 😉 )

 

In ch. 55, Hooker turns to elaborate much more fully on the question of ubiquity, in light of the categories laid out in this chapter, since the question of ubiquity was at that time still quite a hot-button controversy with the Lutherans.  Because of the length of this discussion, I will reserve it for a separate post a few days from now.


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