The Reign of the Son of Man

This post, again, contains much material from last year, but considerably reorganized, and much more developed (particularly in the latter section)

For Hooker, the royal supremacy, and indeed, the whole identity of a Christian commonwealth, cannot be explained without reference to Christology.  In this, he responds directly to Cartwright, but also, as we shall see, to VanDrunen, for both have advanced the same argument.   

In Natural Law and the Two Kingdoms, VanDrunen lays great weight on what he calls the Reformed doctrine of the “two mediatorships,” which he summarizes, 

“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.” 

The function of this doctrine is to emphasize two distinct offices of the Son of God, that of creator and governor over the order creation, on the one hand, and that of redeemer and governor over the order of redemption on the other.  These are not to be characterized as a temporal sequence, for, by virtue of the doctrine of the extra Calvinisticum, VanDrunen sees both offices being executed simultaneously and separately—while Christ was on earth, and indeed, after his ascension as well.  We need not look far to find the function of this doctrine for VanDrunen, for if Christ exercises two separate kingships, this authorizes the two kingdoms distinction.  VanDrunen, we will recall, correlates the civil kingdom to creation, encompassing phenomena such as politics, economics, and culture, and the spiritual kingdom to redemption, encompassing the Church and its work.  

Thus far, the distinction is fairly unobjectionable.  Having once made such a distinction, however, we must be careful not to allow it to become a dichotomy.  The personal unity of the Incarnate Word ensures that, as Hooker emphasized, creation and redemption hold together as two works of the same agent; moreover, these are not two unrelated works, but the latter, as we have seen repeatedly in Hooker’s exposition, renews the former and brings it to perfection.  A mere distinction of this sort, therefore, will not necessarily underwrite the strict separation of Church and state, of the norms of redemption from the norms of creation, that VanDrunen seeks to offer.  VanDrunen must therefore seek to resist the communicatio idiomatum whereby the human acts of the work of redemption can be predicated of the eternal Word and the divine acts of creation and governing creation can be predicated of the Son of man.  VanDrunen thus asks us to separate out these two “capacities”: “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.”  VanDrunen will even go so far as to say that this means we cannot rightly speak of “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.”  On this basis, VanDrunen argues, it is wrong to try to make the creation order (and thus the state) “Christian.”    

Distant as these Christological concerns may seem from politics, a glance at the 16th-century reveals that VanDrunen is not barking up the wrong tree.  In his debate with Whitgift over the relationship of the two kingdoms, Cartwright developed a similar line of argument, which he pursues at some length in his Second Replie.  In attacking Whitgift’s account of the civil and spiritual kingdoms, Cartwright 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.”  

Further on, he explains, 

“let yt be consydered fyrst that our Saviour Christ ys in one respecte creator, and preserver of mankinde, in another redeemer, and upholder of his church.  For he created once and preserveth daily as God coequal with his Father, and holy spirite, but he both redemed once, and daily gathereth his church, as mediatour of god and man, in which respect even yet in his infynite glory he enjoyeth, he is, and shall be under his father, and holy ghost, untill having put downe all rule and power, he shall render the kingdom to his father.  Secondly yt ys to be donsidered, that as our Saviour Christe doth these in dyvers respectes: so he doth them by divers meanss.  To wyt that as God symply he hath ordeined certein means to serve his providence in the prservation of mankynde; so as God and man, he hath ordeined other certein, for the gathering, and keping off his church.  Thes groundes laied, yt is to be considered, whether the exercise off the sworde by the magistrate, come from our Saviour Christe preserver off mankinde, wherein he is coequal to his father, or as mediatour off his church, wherin he is inferiour.”

In these passages, Cartwright is attempting to assert a Christological basis for a separate government of church and state.  These institutions, says Cartwright, serve to provide for the ongoing work of redemption, and the ongoing government of creation, respectively.  Accordingly, they are not simply under the government of Jesus Christ in the same way, and cannot be mixed together.  In particular, Cartwright’s point here is to insist that we cannot speak of a human head of the Church, because the Church already has a human head, Christ Jesus, who answers to God.  As governor of the Church, “our Saviour Christ himselfe hath a superior, which is his father.”  However, Cartwright does want to allow for human heads of state, and thus argues that these are subordinated to Christ only as he is God: “in the governement off kingdomes . . . he hath no superior, but immediate autoritie with his father.”  Torrance Kirby explains: “According to Cartwright’s position, then, Christ has a double role or function as the ‘God-man’.  On the one hand, he is the source of all authority in the secular political order by virtue of his being the Son of God; on the other hand, he exercises ultimate power as head of his body, the Church, through his Manhood.”  With two distinct heads, then, the civil and spiritual kingdoms function in Cartwright’s account as two distinct, personally separated bodies.  

VanDrunen approvingly cites Samuel Rutherford advancing a similar, though perhaps even more starkly stated account: 

“Rutherford put the temporal kingdom under ‘God the creator’ and spiritual kingdom under ‘Christ the Redeemer and Head of the Church.’  In speaking further about the former, he writes that it is ‘not a part’ of Christ’s spiritual kingdom and thus states bluntly that the civil magistrate ‘is not subordinate to Christ as mediator and head of the Church.’  Along similar lines, he says later that ‘magistrates as magistrates’ are not ‘the ambassadors of Christ’ but ‘the deputy of God as the God of order, and as the creator.”

 

Behind this sort of account lurks the spectre of Nestorianism, the implication that we must treat the Incarnate God-Man as a separate agent from the eternal Word, and must strictly avoid predicating of the one functions carried out by the other.  Hooker is alive to this danger, and also to its larger consequences, recognizing that “such a separation within the source of authority, and its consequent ‘personal’ separation of the civil from the ecclesiastical community implies an inevitable de-Christianising of the secular political order.”  Accordingly, he responds to Cartwright’s claims from the Second Replie in a masterful stretch of argument in VIII.4.6, drawing on the Christological principles laid down already in Book V.

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.”  On this basis, he will argue “that all authoritie as well civill as Ecclesiasticall is subordinate unto his.”  One cannot, as Cartwright does, separate Christ’s kingship over the Church as man his divine kingship.  Hooker constructs his argument carefully, beginning with the eternal Son’s sharing in the rule of God the Father:

“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, VanDrunen 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, Hooker insists at this point on the communicatio idiomatum: “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.”  Indeed, at stake here is not merely the doctrine of the incarnation—by virtue of which divine agency can be predicated of Jesus of Nazareth—but the doctrine of the ascension, by virtue of which the man Jesus Christ has been elevated, in his human nature, to kingship at the right hand of God over all his works.  Whereas VanDrunen asserts, and Cartwright implies, a version of the extra Calvinisticum which permanently sunders the human being Jesus Christ from the lordship exercised by the divine Son, Hooker insists that all that the Son worked as God he works now also as man, and what the Son works as man, he now does by divine power: “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 two natures, in short, are united in one agency, one dominion, a dominion over not only the Church, but all creation.  

It is thus as both God and man that Christ rules over his Church, and as both God and man that he rules over the kingdoms of this world.  The foundation for all earthly 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.  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, Hooker has argued, is simply the orthodox doctrine of the incarnation.  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.  For that reason, there is no part of the natural order that has not been united to, and perfected in, the order of grace.

 

Just as the implications of Cartwright’s semi-Nestorian move for political theology are profound, so the implications of Hooker’s response supply him with a strong foundation not merely for his defence of the royal supremacy, but more generally, for his account of the Christian commonwealth.  Civil magistrates hold their authority derivatively from God through Christ, and thus are accountable to Christ for the outward protection of his kingdom.  Because we cannot sever Christ’s redemptive work from his work of creating and governing, it follows that magistrates are responsible not merely for preserving the created order of human society, and witnessing to God’s rule over it, but also for encouraging the redemption of society, and witnessing to the kingship of Christ the redeemer.  For Hooker, this is not a denial of his clear insistence on the integrity of the natural order, and of natural law as a means for governing this order.  Rather, as we have seen, he has maintained throughout that human nature seeks its proper fulfillment in union with God.  Now that this natural end has been achieved by virtue of supernatural grace in the Incarnation of Christ, one cannot speak of the natural order without reference to its rightful king, Christ the Redeemer.  In him, human nature has not been destroyed, nor transformed into something else; rather, it has been restored from its fallen condition, and advanced to a higher perfection, a perfection not beyond nature but proper to it.  Accordingly, the political order, while falling within the realm of nature, is not unaffected by the work of Christ; it cannot carry on as though it existed only under the banner of a generic deity.  By the same token, nor does natural law have no need of the revelation of Christ and his Word, despite having its roots in creation rather than redemption.

One thought on “The Reign of the Son of Man

  1. Here I just want to leave for the record that D. G. Hart, in line with Dr VanDrunen, has explicitly excluded (in a comment at Theopolitical) Christ’s mediatorial rule from everywhere outside what he calls the Church: ‘I also think that God reigns over everything, but I believe that Christ’s mediatorial rule is exclusive to the church.’ The semi-Nestorianism, then, is not just a VanDrunen thing: the logic of the R2K programme really is extensively tied to Cartwright.

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