Dies Mirabilis

His chariots of wrath the deep thunderclouds form,
And dark is His path on the wings of the storm. 

I like to order my life in sync with the Church calendar.  During Lent, I am happy to be somber and sober, attentive to the darkness and brokenness of the world, aware of sin and its destructive effects.  That wasn’t hard this year, with a tsunami in Japan and war in Libya.  But during Easter, I am determined to look on the bright side, to gaze about me and see that Christ is making all things new, that life is triumphing over death and light over darkness.  I will not be distracted by doom or gloom in the headlines, for Christ is risen!   

But this week came a shattering reminder that we are still very much in the “not yet” of redemption’s already/not yet dialectic, a reminder that our world is still broken, that “the whole creation groans and labors with birth pangs together until now.”  All through the day and night of Wednesday, April 27th, massive storms tore unprecedented paths of destruction across the American South.  The state of Alabama was blitzed unrelentingly by countless tornadoes, almost all of them, it seemed, enormous and deadly.  In dozens of towns and cities, residents awoke Thursday morning to heaps of rubble and corpses.  

 

After the Japanese earthquake, I remarked on what a reminder it was of man’s smallness and impotence before God’s works in nature.   This was an equally powerful reminder.  Just as Japan has unprecedented technological preparedness for earthquakes, so does the US for tornadoes.  Our entire arsenal was on display during the outbreak Wednesday–not a single tornado, so far as I am aware, was not detected and announced beforehand by detailed warnings and accurate forecasts of its path.  Indeed, days before, the Storm Prediction Center had warned of a high risk of severe storms and tornadoes in the region from Monday through Wednesday.  Monday and Tuesday saw a remarkable outbreak of dozens of tornadoes–but deaths and injuries were minimal thanks to excellent warnings and relatively small tornados in general.  But for Wednesday, the highest level of alert was announced for Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Georgia was set.  Area meteorologists wrote ominously in their forecast discussions of atmospheric instability levels higher than they’d ever seen, and a perfect combination of factors for devastating storms.   

The day started off with a slew of powerful storms and small tornadoes across the region, a carry-over from the storms of the night before.  This was a bad sign, since most storms form in the afternoon and evening and few survive to see the dawn.  Major cities Chattanooga and Huntsville were hammered repeatedly.  Then in early afternoon, the real storms cranked up over Mississippi.  In no time, several of them were exhibiting “hook echos” on radar, a telltale sign of a strong tornado, and one that is rarely clearly visible except on hi-res radars.  But by mid-afternoon, the vicious-looking hooks were everywhere, seemingly on every storm.  Northern Alabama was painted red with tornado warnings, and several of these were “tornado emergency” warnings, reserved only for rare cases of powerful tornados hitting populated areas.  I knew it was going to be a long night, and was planning to get up after a very brief sleep to do some extra work through the night and follow the unfolding disaster.  

 

I asked my wife if I could check on the status of things for five minutes before heading to bed.  She grudgingly agreed.  I pulled up a live broadcast from Tuscaloosa, AL, and right before my eyes a monster tornado swirled into view, headed straight for the city.  This was the sort of twister you might see in a disaster movie, or in a rare storm chaser video from the Great Plains.  But it was headed for a monster city.  I called my wife over, and we both watched in horror as it swirled through the southern half of the town, growing to almost a mile in diameter.  Finally tearing ourselves away, we went to bed.  Knowing that the storm was headed for Birmingham, Alabama’s largest city, however, I got up again after a restless half hour.  It’s 50 miles from Tuscaloosa to Birmingham; most tornadoes–even the strongest ones–don’t last more than a couple dozen miles, and this one had already been on the ground for a while before hitting Tuscaloosa.  So I figured Birmingham would be alright, but who knew? tonight was no ordinary night.  I went back to my computer and opened up the live broadcast.  Deja vu, only worse.  A camera mounted in downtown Birmingham was looking west, and into sight loomed a great black mass–no longer a funnel or a pillar of cloud, this was now so wide you could hardly see the edges.  A mile and a half in diameter, they said, but it may as well have been ten miles.  “Apocalyptic” was the only adjective I could think of–this kind of tornado only existed in movies, not real life, and this one was headed right into the city.  I called Rachel out of bed again, and we both watched as it curled north around downtown, devouring whole suburbs.  She went back to bed but I stayed, watching as the newscasters struggled in vain to juggle updates regarding the half-dozen major tornadoes on the ground in the area and the damage reports now streaming in from Tuscaloosa and the Birmingham suburbs.  First images and video clips revealed scenes that looked like Hiroshima.  A reporter on the phone from the ironically named Birmingham suburb of Pleasant Grove told of people staggering about with missing limbs, of police calling on every able-bodied man to help pull the dead and dying out of the rubble.  At that, I had to go lie down.  I felt sick.

I watch natural disasters a lot.  I get something of a high out of it, I have to say.  It’s not that I want people to die, of course, but I have a soft spot for melodrama.  It’s why I’ve always liked history so much, I think.  The biggest battle ever.  The most improbable victory, the tragic downfall, the sudden turn of fortune that defies all explanation.  In times such as ours, dominated by bickering and banality, with so much of the world “disenchanted” by science, it is those few remaining natural forces beyond our control and comprehension that still provide such epic and unpredictable story-lines.  So, despite myself, and my genuine feelings of worry and concern, excitement is usually my dominant emotion during a tornado, blizzard, or hurricane.  If it gets serious or shocking enough, excitement may be replaced by numbness.  And perhaps, if it’s bad enough, numbness gives way to a sickening sinking feeling.  That’s happened to me only a precious few times; the only occasion I recall distinctly was when Hurricane Katrina took dead aim on New Orleans as a Cat. 5.  But that happened Wednesday night.  


When I returned to my computer, the Tuscaloosa Terror was still whirling on.  Surveys are still ongoing to confirm the duration of that twister, but it seems clear that it was on the ground for at least 130 miles from eastern Mississippi to northeast of Birmingham.  It may have been much longer, however, for the storm, with its wicked hook echo and its tornado warning, kept on going and going, reports of devastation following it at regular intervals, through eastern Alabama, past Rome, Ga, north of Atlanta, and on into the mountains.  Homes were destroyed in Rabun, near the north Carolina border, and then over the border near Franklin.  A 400-mile path of destruction, through four states–truly unprecedented.  And there were dozens more, many of them huge and destructive and deadly enough to guarantee national headlines on any other day, but almost entirely forgotten this time.  Smithville, MS was levelled by an EF-5, the most powerful category–fire hydrants ripped out of the earth; where brick homes had once been, now mere blank foundation slabs.  In Ringgold, GA, a 3-story motel was flattened by an EF-4, with great loss of life.  Huntsville was in shambles, an EF-4 or EF-5, plus several smaller tornadoes, having torn through its environs.  Hackleburg, Cullmann, and Phil Mitchell, towns in Alabama, were no more.  East Tennessee was ravaged.  Twisters had also hit Arkansas, Missouri, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, Maryland, New York, Virginia.  Across Alabama, people in communities themselves unscatched were picking up debris in their yards from towns 50 miles away.  Hundreds are dead–no one knows how many; thousands are maimed and injured.  Just to put that in perspective: no tornado outbreak has killed more than 100 people since 1974, and back then, the only way we could detect tornadoes was if someone saw them on the ground–nowadays, we can detect on radar if a storm is even thinking about putting down a tornado and if so, precisely where.  But when a storm can peel up asphalt and reduce mature trees to splinters, there’s a limit to what any warnings can accomplish–witnesses in Birmingham spoke of people being killed in their underground basement shelters.  


O God, merciful and compassionate, who art ever ready to hear the prayers of those who put their trust in thee; Graciously hearken to those who call upon thee, grant them thy help in this their need; through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Amen.



Post-Capitalist Hegemony

It’s Easter, right?  So time for a little fun.  

Have you always wanted to write sentences like this, but never been able to?

“The legitimation of praxis functions as the conceptual frame for the linguistic construction of power/knowledge.”

“The ideology of consumption replays (in parodic form) the epistemology of the nation-state.

“The culture of post-capitalist hegemony is always already participating in the historicization of the public sphere.

Well, you need no longer yearn in vain.  Write your own academic sentence

(Scary how many of the sentences this thing generates sound like stuff I read on a regular basis)


Credits to Brad Belschner for the link, and for the generation of the first two of those sample sentences.


The Descent to the Dead

“The central meaning of the descent to the dead is that Christ’s identification with mankind in death is at the same time a proclamation of God’s favour, to those who are already dead, and also to those who have still to die.  The link between the cross and the resurrection is explicit.  Already the conquest of death is preached.  By making himself one with us in the darkness of God’s wrath, Jesus brings us out from darkness into the light of God’s favour.  And in particular he brings those long dead: the place of St. Peter speaks of the generation who died in the primaeval flood, because they, alone among all generations, had no symbolic prefiguring of the Paschal Mystery to instruct them.  They stand appropriately for all who have died without hearing the message of hope.  To all who have lived and died in every age the one perfect work of identification and vindication extends its summons to rise from the grave and be alive for evermore.”

–Oliver O’Donovan, On the Thirty-Nine Articles


My Song is Love Unknown

For the past several years on Good Friday, I have posted the text of Peter Leithart’s incredible Good Friday homily of 2006–“Christ and Him Crucified.”  There may finally be a homily to surpass it, however, Toby Sumpter’s Good Friday homily of last year, “My Song is Love Unknown.”  And as Leithart’s homily has now found a home at a rather bigger and better blog, I thought I would share Toby’s this year (or you can hear him preach it here).

God is love. The Father, the Son, and the Spirit are eternally Love. This God of love, this God who is love has overflowed. This Triune God does not cease to love but eternally overflows. He is the surplus of love, the excess of love, the triumph of love.

God is the Lover par excellence. And His love is fierce, undaunted, jealous, comprehensive, and unabashed.

We say, “I love you.” And we don’t understand what we are saying. I say, I love you, honey. I love you, son. I love you, dear. And I am quite literally out of my mind. What am I am saying? What do I mean?

How does our God love? How does the Father love the Son, love the Spirit; Son love the Father, love the Spirit; Spirit love the Father, love the Son.  How? And how do we take that glory upon our lips? How do we sing that? How do we imitate that? How have we been embraced by that?

Let there be light. Let there be heaven. Let there be earth. Let there be stars. Let there be fish and birds. Let there be beasts. And then God said something more. And then God said, ‘Let us make man in our image.’ It’s all plural and wonderful, all love. Let us make man in our image, according to our likeness. Let us love, and let us overflow in love, and let us make man to love and to overflow in love.

And let us make them male and female. Let us give them noses and fingers. Let us give her breasts and let us give him a beard. Let their love join our love. Let the world be our marriage feast, our wedding night. Let man eat and love, rule and love, name and love.

And when we sinned, when we had defiled the marriage bed, God made us clothes. He intended glorious robes of nobility, but when we rejected those, He made us skins to show some honor, to cover us with His love. Remember that I love you, He seemed to say, handing us those clothes he fashioned for us, as we left home on our own, looking for pigs to farm.

But He followed us; His loved followed us. His love carved a boat to save us and many animals from the furious flood. He sent us a dove with an olive branch in its mouth, and then in a glorious understatement, He painted the sky with a rainbow to remind us of His love, all purple and orange and lovely. It’s for you, He said, so I’ll never forget, so I will always remember you.

And His love followed us away from Babel into Ur and called our father Abraham to walk before Him. He visited Abraham at night in those days, pointing out stars, passing through pieces of butchered animals. See how I love you, He said, and sometimes we caught glimpses of what that might mean. See how I love you, He said, and provided a ram for Isaac, a substitute for the sacrifice. The Lord will provide. See how I love you?

But we quarreled and fought and turned the world ugly. With bent hearts, we sold brothers and killed brothers until we were starving for food in the famine, our garden obliterated, our feast turned to fast. But God in His love, God full of love raised up a little brother to deliver us from ourselves. The love of God prepared the best land, and a little brother as elder brother, a little brother with bread for the world, from God with love.

His love burst into flames on a bush a few years later. He couldn’t help himself when our groans and cries came up to heaven. We had deserted His love, and despised His bread. But His love burned for us, and He came for us. He came with magic to woo us. He came with snakes and frogs and flies and hail. He came like a Tom Sawyer, giving the bully a black eye and hoping we’d notice. He loaded us with gifts and treasures and showed us a secret way out of the cave, through the sea, and remember how He turned around when Pharaoh and his legions were coming? Remember how He flicked His wrist and pushed the sea back together?

And He sang to us at the Mountain, but we didn’t like His voice. It was terrible we said. He had written poetry for us on the top of the Mountain. But when Moses brought it down, we had gotten bored waiting and we were kissing a golden calf. And He sent us bread again, every day, but we got tired of that. And when we asked for meat, he gave that too, but we got tired of that as well. We forgot about the magic; we didn’t care about the gifts. And when He offered to marry us, we shrugged our shoulders and agreed. He built a house and showed us how we could meet, how we could come close, how we could draw near.

He invited us into His presence. Our priest wore beautiful clothes, and God put stones on his shoulders and wrote our names six on one and six on the other. He wrote our names in the order of our birth. And he put precious stones on his chest, a stone for every tribe, precious stones for his precious bride. And He wrote our names on the stones on the high priests shoulders, so he could see our names in His presence when He called us into His presence in glory and beauty. So He would always remember us.

And He arranged our tents all around His tent. He gathered us all around him and held us close to Him, three in the north, three in the south, three to the east, and three to the west. And when He offered to give us a land flowing with milk and honey, we said He couldn’t give it to us. His love was not big enough for the giants in the land, and then we changed our minds. But he thought it would better to wait, wait until we knew His love. But we didn’t listen, and we died trying to take the land without His love.

But He said He would make us young again, and when we had become like children then we would know His love, and when we were children, His love would give us the land. And sure enough, we were born again in the wilderness. And we watched Him walk out into the Jordan River. He rolled up the water into a heap on one side and reminded us of our escape by night from Egypt. The priests stood there in the middle while we crossed, and He piled up twelve stones in the Jordan and twelve precious stones on the shore. He said He didn’t want to ever forget that moment. He would always remember how He carried us over the threshold into our new home together.

He tried to sing for us again, and this time we hummed along a little. We were still reluctant, but He gave us our first city that way. Our first city fell down when we sang with Him and blew our trumpets. The walls came tumbling down. It was nice how He did that for us, how He danced with us and shook the earth and gave us that city. He said that He loved us then. But we saw the gold and the earrings and the other plunder and got distracted. We hid some in our tent, and didn’t listen as He talked to us. He was saying something about love, I think, but we weren’t listening.

God tried to teach us His song, how to sing and dance like Him, how the rest of the cities would fall down too if we sang His song and danced with Him. And we shrugged and took a turn or two. But we were so easily distracted. There were many golden calves, many beds, many others. Remember how he would come for us again and again? Remember how he picked us up when we were strung out, when we were hung over, when we had traded all His gifts for slavery? Seems like it was all the time in those days. And He came for us in His love. He came for us like a knight, like a hero. Always with His eyes fixed on us, always like a faithful bridegroom.

He told us that He would always come for us, always defend us, always protect us. And then we asked if He would mind if we married another husband. Would it be OK with you, if we had another King besides you, we asked, one day while looking out the window. You know, like the other nations? You aren’t like the other lords, the other kings, the other husbands in the world. We can’t see you, and the other nations, they can’t see you either.

He said that would be OK. He said He would teach us about His love through this other man, this other lord. I’ll choose a man to teach you how I love you, He said. He’ll build a house for you, a house for my name, and I’ll still meet you there. We’ll still make love beneath the cedars of Lebanon. And we shrugged our shoulders, but God wouldn’t let this occasion pass without gifts. He walked with our new king, and called him a man after His own heart. He taught him His dance and His song, and He filled our land with gold and treasures, because I love you, He said.

Fairly quickly we moved out on our own. We invited other men into the house and paid them to sleep with us with the dowry our God had given us. We paid our lovers with the tokens of His love. We spent our inheritance on riotous living. God began sending us letters around then, since we weren’t around much. And when we didn’t respond, He eventually sued for divorce. He was mad of course, but He was mad with love. He called us a whore and a prostitute. He said we were unfaithful, but kept on staring at us, staring with those same eyes of angry love.

We walked out with curses on our lips, screaming obscenities at Him. We hated Him. He did this to us, we told ourselves, we lied to ourselves. He said He would never leave us, we cried, with mascara running down our cheeks by the rivers of Babylon. And when our captors saw us, they asked us to sing one of the songs of Zion. Sing us the song He taught you, they mocked. But how could we sing His song? How could we sing His song after all of that?

He didn’t let us go alone of course. He came with us; He followed us. His love came with us, like always. He said He would come for us again. He said He would make us young again. He said that when we became children again He would show us His love. Then we would know how He loved us. Somehow we were born again in the wilderness of exile. Somehow, we woke up one morning and He was carrying us home. He sang us His song again. And He repaired the walls of our city and sent gifts from the nations to begin repairing the house.

We didn’t hear much from Him in those days, and others came around. And the others had money and power. They promised to protect us, keep us safe. But they never really turned out like they said. They used our house, the house God had rebuilt for us, for their own things, their own parties.

And then one day a man showed up at our door. He was a wild, mangy man with a leather belt and clothes made of camel’s hair. His name was John, and he told us that our Husband was coming and to prepare for Him. We were confused, we were excited, we were angry. Where had He been? The house was crowded with our other friends and lovers then, but maybe we could try again. Maybe we could start over.

When the knock came, we were nervous. But when we opened the door, we were surprised. We had never seen Him before, but He wasn’t how we had expected Him, how we imagined Him. He looked too young for starters, barely grown. He wasn’t handsome like we thought. And when we asked Him who He was, He ran out into the Jordan River and stood in the middle of the stream and smiled. John piled the water up over him, and a dove came down and for a moment we heard His song, like a low rumble. Remember? He called to us. The other men inside laughed at Him, but then He went on. Watch, He said, as He made His magic. He played with a brood of vipers, and He turned water into blood-red wine. Remember? He asked. And He went walking across the sea like it was nothing, like it was dry ground, and later, with a flick of His wrist, He pushed a legion of demons into the sea. He sang us His song on a mountain, and gave us bread in the wilderness, bread for thousands. Remember? He asked. Remember, how I love you?

But we didn’t remember. He wasn’t what we hoped for. He wanted to throw all the others out of the house. He said they weren’t good for us. They were thieves, He said. They were snakes and wolves. But we didn’t believe Him. We told Him that we didn’t love Him. We did not receive Him. He said that He still loved us, and there were tears in His eyes as He looked at our home. He said He wished He could gather us up into His arms. And we spit in His face and told Him to go to hell. And when the men got angry with the commotion, we offered them thirty pieces of silver. And they said that would be enough.

And do you remember that day when our God stood in our place? Do you remember that day when our husband received their taunts and blows? Do you remember when He stood there for us? Do you remember when they lifted Him up, when they drove stakes into His hands and feet, when then crowned our King with thorns? When He hung there looking at us like a knight, like a hero, like a bridegroom watching His bride come down the aisle?

And we beheld Him, despised and rejected, and we hid our faces, hating Him. Surely He carried our sorrows. He was wounded for us. He was afflicted for us. And He did not open His mouth. He was led like a lamb to the slaughter.

This is God our Lover: the God who is Love, the God who ever loves: the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. He is the overflow of love, the excess of love, the triumph of love. How do we say that? How do we say that love? How do we sing it? How does His song go?

It’s something like this:

My song is love unknown
My Savior’s love to me
Love to the loveless shown
That we might lovely be.

 


Is Christ Divided? Christology and the Two Kingdoms

Those of you who were reading this blog last summer may recall that one of the oddest, and to my mind one of the most disturbing, aspect of David VanDrunen’s political-theological proposal in Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms was his notion of the dual mediatorship of Christ as the Christological foundation for the two kingdoms, Church and State.  Of course, VanDrunen did not set it forth as a theological proposal, but as a historical doctrine merely, one that he claimed to find in incipient form in Calvin and more or less fully-developed by Turretin and Rutherford.  Although I think he is on somewhat shaky ground in much of the historical evidence he claims to find, there is one theologian that he could have quite plausibly invoked as an early proponent of the doctrine–the Elizabethan Presbyterian, Thomas Cartwright.  Indeed, on this, as on every other point, VanDrunen studiously avoids so much as mentioning Cartwright, but the links are unmistakable.  What makes this so juicy for my purposes is that Richard Hooker mounts a devastating attack on Cartwright at precisely this point (among others, of course), and along similar lines to the concerns I raised about VanDrunen.

The two mediatorships doctrine runs something like this:

“As mediator, the divine Logos is not limited to his incarnate form even after the incarnation.  He was mediator of creation prior to his incarnation and as mediator continues to sustain creation independent of his mediatorial work as reconciler of creation in the incarnation, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus of Nazareth” (John Bolt quoted in VanDrunen 75). 

As mediator over creation, Christ rules as God over the civil kingdom–politics, economics, everything that natural man does, in short.  As mediator over redemption, Christ rules as man over his body, the Church, which does spiritual things.  (It may seem like there’s an odd inversion–as God he rules over merely human activities; as man, he rules over divine activities; but don’t ask me, I’m not the one who cooked up the paradigm.)  Now, there is a problem with this paradigm as VanDrunen and Cartwright develop it.  A big problem, actually.  It’s called Nestorianism.

Of course, it is worth cautioning at the outset that VanDrunen is not quite as susceptible to this charge, it seems to me, as Cartwright.  While Cartwright will speak of Christ as mediator over the one kingdom “as God” and over the other “as man,” VanDrunen is somewhat more guarded and will speak of “eternal member of the Divine Trinity” vs. “incarnate mediator/redeemer” or simply of “God” vs. “God-man.”  This might indeed be completely fine if it were merely a temporal distinction–first the one, and then the other.  But the Bolt quote makes clear that it is not; these are rather envisioned as two simultaneous mediatorships.  The extra Calvinisticum is brought in to justify conceiving of Christ existing and operating in two different forms–incarnate and non-incarnate–during and after his incarnation.  As I’ve written before, this would hardly seem to be a safe or a wise use of the extra.  

Now, the difficulty here is not, I should make clear, that of making a distinction between these two capacities or offices of Christ.  Christ can and does exercise distinct offices.  Christ is both creator of the world and redeemer of the world, and therefore relates to it in these distinct ways.  The difficulty comes in if we speak of these two capacities or offices of Christ in a way which seems to designate or require two separate agents.  There is a distinction between divine and human in Christ, but never a personal separation.  So let’s look more closely at just what it is that Cartwright and VanDrunen say.  

 

Cartwright, in attacking John Whitgift’s two regiments doctrine, argues that 

“yt confoundeth and shuffleth together the autoritie of our Saviour Christ as he is the sonne off God onely before all worldes coequall with his father: with that which he hath gyven off his father and which he exerciseth in respecte he is mediator betwene God and us.  For in the governement off the church and superiorytie over the officers off it, our Saviour Christ himselfe hath a superior, which is his father: but in the governement off kingdomes, and other commonwealthes, and in the superiority which he hath over kinges and judges, he hath no superior, but immediate autoritie with his father.”

Christ has authority as divine Son over creation (and therefore the State); but he has authority over the Church as incarnate man, under God.  Torrance Kirby summarizes, 

“On the one hand, Christ qua Son of Man and Redeemer, that is to say, according to his human nature, is inferior to the Father.  For it is through his assumption of the human nature that Christ is able to mediate between God and men.  And for Cartwright, Christ’s mediatorial role as Redeemer is identified with his specific function as head of the Church….For the Disciplinarian, Christ’s humanity is the source of ecclesiastical government wheras all other worldly government derives directly from his deity.” 

These two governments are analyzed as two separate parallel polities.  For Hooker, says Kirby, “such a separation within the source of authority, and its consequent ‘personal’ separation of the civil from the ecclesiastical community implies an inevitable de-Christianizing of the secular political order.”  Well, this is quite interesting indeed, since that is precisely what VanDrunen is up to–a de-Christianizing of the political order.  This is not, of course, Cartwright’s immediate agenda; rather, he develops this argument in defense of the more narrow claim that the monarch cannot be head of the Church.  This is why he lays so much stress on Christ as man being inferior to the Father–he is the earthly head of the Church under God, so there is no need for a human earthly head under God.  But Hooker is right to recognize that the implications are wider.  

Now, the dangers in this articulation seem quite straightforward–Christ is rendered permanently unequal to himself–a human being governing the Church, and a divine being governing the world.  The human and divine are conceived of as two independent centers of activity, which are concerned with completely different works.  If Cartwright were to allow a communicatio idiomatum, it seems, it would have to be only of the barest linguistic variety–there must be no real sense in which the divine Christ could be said to do what the human Christ does, or vice versa.  And it is of course crucial to orthodox Trinitarian theology and Christology that we can say that God is the agent of all that Christ does.  

 

Thankfully, VanDrunen doesn’t quite put things this way.  He does not emphasize the language of Christ being simultaneously “equal to” and “inferior to” his Father, though no doubt if one pressed hard enough, one might find such categories as part of the picture.  However, the core claim, that there is a rift between what Christ does as divine Son and what he does as incarnate man, is clearly emphasized: “the Son of God rules the temporal kingdom as an eternal member of the Divine Trinity but does not rule it in his capacity as the incarnate mediator/redeemer” (181).  This even means that we cannot rightly identify “Christ” as creator:  “To distinguish between the Son as creator and the Son as redeemer entails that the title of ‘Christ’ belongs only to the latter…in his special mission of becoming incarnate for the particular work of saving his people.  The Son redeemed the world, but did not create the world, as the Messiah, the Christ” (313).  Therefore, the creation order is not “Christian.”  

Because VanDrunen does not set up the distinction, as Cartwright does, straightforwardly between divine and human, but between divine non-incarnate, and divine-human incarnate, the Nestorianism is not quite so blatant.  Indeed, more immediately apparent are related problems in Trinitarian theology.  However, if VanDrunen’s distinction functions so that the pre-incarnate (and for that matter, post-incarnate) Word and the incarnate Christ represent separate agents, then this is clearly Nestorian.  No doubt VanDrunen would say that he means merely to designate a separation of offices–Christ fulfills one office as divine Son, and another office as incarnate God-man, and the fulfillment of the latter office does not impair a continued separate exercise of the first.  Maybe, though I still think a number of his formulations seem to teeter on the brink; but the problem I see is that “redemption” is not merely something the Son happens to do–it defines him.  God the Son is the Redeemer, the mediator.  His person is defined by his work.  Christ’s redemptive capacity is not just one hat that he wears among many.  And if this is the case, then there is simply no way to draw such a rigid separation between the Son’s work as sustainer of creation and Christ’s work as redeemer, without effectively introducing a personal separation between Word and Christ.  This, at any rate, is the Barthian line of critique

 

But, as Hooker reveals, one does not even need to take that line of critique.  One could grant that it were possible that the incarnate Christ, as man, might not be participant in all that the eternal Word works as God; however, as a matter of fact, Scripture and the doctrine of the ascension compel us to the conviction that the dominion exercised by the Word as God is now exercised also by the Word as Man.  So let’s look closely at what St. Richard has to say.

I have already explored Hooker’s Christology at length in a series of posts, and I hinted at its applicability to this issue.  But thankfully, we need not try and draw the connections ourselves, for Hooker himself does so in response to Cartwright’s attack on the royal supremacy.  He begins, “As Christ being Lord or Head over all doth by vertue of that Soveraigntie rule all, so he hath no more a superiour in governing his Church then in exercising soveraigne Dominion upon the rest of the world besides.”  One cannot, as Cartwright does, make Christ’s sovereignty over the Church a function of a subordinate human headship separate from his divine sovereignty.  Why?  

“That which the Father doth work as Lord and King over all he worketh not without but by the sonne who through coeternall generation receiveth of the Father that power which the Father hath of himself.  And for that cause our Savioures wordes concerning his own Dominion are, To me all power both in heaven and earth is given.  The Father by the sonne both did create and doth guide all.”  

So far, DVD and Cartwright would probably concur–the second person of the Trinity, by virtue of his divinity derived from the Father, is creator and ruler of all things.  However, there is an important corollary:

“As the consubstantiall word of God, he had with God before the beginning of the world that glorie which as man he requesteth to have.  Father glorifie they Sonne now with that glorie which with thee I enjoyed before the world was, for there is no necessitie that all things spoken of Christ should agree unto him either as God or else as man, but some things as he is the consubstantiall word of God, some thinges as he is that word incarnate.  The workes of supreme Dominion which have been since the first begining wrought by the power of the Sonne of God are now most truly and properly the workes of the Sonne of man.  The word made flesh doth sitt for ever and raigne as Soveraigne Lord over all.  Dominion belongeth unto the Kingly office of Christ as propitiation and mediation unto his priestly, instruction unto his pastoral or propheticall office.” 

Although there may well be “no necessitie” that the two dominions should be united, the Father’s gracious glorification and exaltation of the Son ensures that they are.  All that the Son worked as God he works now also as man–the two natures are united in one agency, one dominion, a dominion over not only the Church, but all creation, following 1 Cor. 15:20-28.

This is stated even more clearly back in Hooker’s Christological discussion in Bk. 5, which he is clearly drawing on at this point:

“that deitie of Christ which before our Lordes incarnation wrought all thinges without man doth now worke nothinge wherein the nature which it hath assumed is either absent from it or idle.  Christ as man hath all power both in heaven and earth given him.  He hath as man not as God only supreme dominion over quicke and dead.  For so much his ascension into heaven and his session at the right hand of God doe importe….Session at the right hand of God is the actual exercise of that regencie and dominino wherein the manhood of Christ is joyned and matchet with the deitie of the Sonne of God….This government [over all creation] therefore he exerciseth both as God and as man, as God by essentiall presence with all thinges, as man by cooperation with that which essentiallie is present.”

And so he says again, contra Cartwright, “And yet the dominion wherunto he was in his humane nature lifted up is not without divine power exercised.  It is by divine power that the Sonne of man, who sitteth in heaven doth work as King and Lord upon us which are on earth.”

The basis of all worldly government, then, is not merely from God the Creator, but now also through the God-man, the redeemer, who as man sits on the throne at the right hand of God, as redeemer of the world exercises his rule over creation.  One therefore simply cannot say that Christ rules over creation as God and over redemption as man; or over creation as God merely and over redemption as God-man.  All that the Son has and does by virtue of divinity, his humanity is made sharer in, and all that Jesus Christ has and does by virtue of his humanity, the divinity is made sharer in.  This is the orthodox doctrine of the humiliation and exaltation of Christ.  One cannot say then that as divine Son, the Word exercises a dominion in which the man Christ Jesus has no part, or that as redeeming man, Christ exercises an office in which the divine Son has no part.  Rather, all things on heaven and earth are made subject to the Word made flesh. 

So, if VanDrunen does not fall afoul of the orthodox doctrine of the Incarnation (which he may), he certainly does fall afoul of the doctrine of the ascension.  Thank goodness the Reformed have Anglicans like Hooker to set them straight.  ðŸ˜‰