Worms or Gods? Hooker, Rushdoony, and the Creator/Creature Distinction

A friend of mine, Robin Phillips, recently emailed me an amusing excerpt from Rousas John Rushdoony, accusing my beloved Hooker of being nothing less than an Arian!  Rationalist I’ve heard, bootlicker of the powers that be, I’ve heard, but Arian?  The particular passage he alleged (which I will get to in a moment) was willfully and absurdly misread, but the broader accusation was quite revealing:

Having introduced man into the Godhead, Hooker plainly made man God’s associate in the government of all things. Thus, the British monarchy now had indeed a divine right of amazing dimensions….It is not surprising that the British monarchs loved their Mr. Hooker! Hooker introduced man into the Godhead, subordinated British subjects firmly to an absolute monarch on religious grounds, and saw the monarchy, and the English church-state as a divine order.

Now, let’s leave aside for a moment the complete incomprehension of Hooker’s political thought that this displays, and look closely at that first sentence.  Here, I think, Rushdoony has read Hooker right.  But the problem is that Hooker has read the Bible right.  Man has been introduced into the Godhead; man has been made God’s associate in the government of all things.  If that’s not what the doctrine of the Incarnation and Ascension teach us, then what does it teach?  Isn’t that what Phillippians 2:9-11 and 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 are all about?  The astounding wonder of the Gospel is not merely that God came down to be among men, but that God then brought man up to be among God; that is what we especially celebrate now during the Feast of the Ascension.  God was not content to bring us from death to life, for us to forever adore him for his mercy, but he does incredibly more–he brings us from lowliness to lordship, from powerlessness to power.  

And this is where the favorite Calvinist mantra–the “Creator-creature distinction”–breaks down, because God himself broke it down.  Creator became creature, and then brought creature up to share in the glory and the dominion that is proper only to the Creator; Christ as man rules over all, and we share with him in that glory, we in him are brought up to the heavenly places.  I know little of Rushdoony’s work, but I would surmise that is it no coincidence that Rushdoony can’t stand Hooker at this point, because this is precisely the point where Hooker critiques the whole Puritan tradition of which Rushdoony is an heir–for thinking that God can only be exalted at man’s expense.


Before fleshing that out, let me go back and make sure Hooker is adequately defended against the particular charges that Rushdoony brings.  This is the passage that he alleges as evidence of Arianism

“Seeing therefore the Father alone is originally that Deity which Christ originally is not (for Christ is God by being of God, light by issuing out of light,) it followeth hereupon that whatsoever Christ hath common unto him with his heavenly Father, the same of necessity must be given him, but naturally and eternally given, not bestowed by way of benevolence and favour, as the other gifts both are. And therefore where the Fathers give it out for a rule, l that whatsoever Christ is said in Scripture to have received, the same we ought to apply only to the manhood of Christ; their assertion is true of all things which Christ hath received by grace, but to that which he hath received of the Father by eternal nativity or birth it reacheth not.” (from LEP V.54.2–for context, see here)

This is not Arianism, however, but classical Christology–albeit of a more Easter than Western stamp.  The Orthodox have always been quite emphatic (and some are even concerned that Protestants lean toward heresy on this point) that the Father is the sole fons divinitatis–fount of divinity.  This is what the doctrine of the eternal generation of the Son and the eternal procession of the Spirit mean–that although both Son and Spirit are co-equal and co-eternal, nevertheless they are derivative, not originative.  This seems somewhat paradoxical, to be sure, but then so does all Trinitarian theology.  And it is what conservatives have tried to say about male-female relations–the female derives from the man, and so is n that sense subordinate, but is nevertheless equal.  There has been a tendency for Western theology since Arianism to be so allergic to subordinationism of any kind that it denies even that subordination which is manifestly attested in the New Testament.  And I think that’s what’s going on here with Rushdoony.  Note that Hooker says, “naturally and eternally given, not bestowed by way of benevolence and favour.”  This is blatantly anti-Arian.  The Arians said “there was when he was not”–a time when Christ was not God.  But Hooker says that the Son’s Godhood was “eternally” given. The Arians saw it as a matter of creation–the gift of being to a creature of another nature from the Creator God, rather than the generation of a being from within his own nature.  Hooker says that Godhood is “naturally” given to the Son–it belongs to him by nature; he never was of any other nature than that of God Himself.  


What about the accusation of divinising the British monarchy?  Pshaw.  In fact, the English monarchy resisted absolutization and divinisation during this period more than any other European monarchy, and for that, people like Hooker can take considerable credit.  There was a brief stage with Charles I and Charles II that tended toward the kind of absolutism Rushdoony is critiquing here, but it would be hard to argue that Hooker bears responsibility for that development.  Indeed, on my reading, Hooker actually pushes toward a more provisional, human-law understanding of the royal supremacy, and of political authority than that which was common in the 16th century, including that offered by the magisterial Reformers.  Folks like Cranmer, Bullinger, and Vermigli, and even in certain respects Calvin, were prone to sacralize political office and make it a direct mediation of the divine will in a way that Hooker judiciously stops short of. 


But let’s get back to the larger theological point.  Hooker’s theology of the Incarnation certainly is explicit in insisting that through the Incarnation, human nature is made “God’s associate in the government of all things.” (See, for instance, posts here, here, here, and here.)  This is, after all, the inescapable implication of the doctrine of the hypostatic union.  But, some will object, that is Christ only, not us.  We are not hypostatically united to God.  True, but we are united to Christ and made participants in the glory that is his.  Indeed, the hypostatic union is not, as it turns out, some odd anomaly–this is the pattern of all of Scripture.  On the sixth day of creation, after finishing the animals, did God say, “Well, now I’ve got me my creation.  I guess I’d better start governing it”?  No, he created mankind–in his image–and invited them to exercise rule over it, in fellowship with him.  When mankind failed, God neither gave up on them, nor engaged in some deus ex machina rescue mission to reverse their mistakes.  Instead, he made them the actors in his redemption drama.  He raised up Israel to be the emissaries of God to the world, his associates and partners in the glorious task of redemption.  And then when they too failed, he still didn’t resort to a deus ex machina, even if we sometimes treat the Incarnation that way.  No, the solution was still deus in homine–God chose to work redemption through human means, clothing himself with humanity even while doing what only God can do.  And no sooner was the deed accomplished then he empowered humanity again to be his partners and associates in redeeming and transforming the world.  

Does any of this detract from the glory of God?  There is an age-old human tendency for man to try to exalt himself at God’s expense.  The Gospel laughs down all such pretensions.  But there has been an age-old theological tendency, which has reached perhaps its most sustained and refined embodiment in many forms of Calvinism, to seek to curb man’s pride by an equal and opposite reaction–to try to exalt God at man’s expense.  God must have all the glory, which means that we must repeat over and over that we are but worms.  We are nothing, God is everything.  From this tendency flows the hyper-Calvinism that is so afraid even to give man “credit” for meriting damnation by his sins, that it insists upon giving God the “glory” of being the exclusive cause of the sin and the damnation.  From this tendency flows the theonomy that is so hostile to any kind of human authority that it rules out all law but that given directly by the voice of God.  From this tendency flows the fundamentalism that is so skeptical of the powers of the human mind that it would reject all sources of knowledge and wisdom but the Bible.  The more we ascribe to Scripture, the better.  And Scripture itself must be de-humanized and thought of as a divine dictation, lest we demote God and exalt man by thinking of God’s truth as mediated through weak human instruments.  

But this is of course to get it all wrong.  The greatest God is not the one who could be so great that everything else is dust and worms; the greatest God is the one who could make others great without becoming any smaller himself, the one who was so great that he could give himself away without becoming any less.  The most powerful God is not the one who could accomplish any work by his sole power alone, but the one who could somehow accomplish just as glorious and perfect a work while working through mere creatures.  The true God is not the one who defines himself over against everything else, by subtraction, but through all else, by addition.  That is why he is Trinity, not monad.  That is why he became man, that man might become God.  He is the God who looks on us and says, “You are not worms, you are not dust; I have said ye are gods.”  This is the God who actually is willing to make us stewards of the infinite riches of his word–to give us the most important job in the world, even when we’ve proven ourselves to be unreliable, unfaithful, forgetful.  This is the God who said, “Go, make disciples of all nations.  Go ahead, do it.  And while you’re at it, make laws, build cities, compose the Fifth Symphony, discover Proxima Centauri, breed golden retrievers, invent pizza.”  And this is the God who looks on it all at the end and says, “It is very good.” 

Beyond Space and Time: O’Donovan on the Ascension

Today is Ascension Day, which, although one of the great feasts of the Church calendar, is not something most Christians give much heed to.  Perhaps that is because we don’t really know what to make of the ascension.  We confess it in the Creed, to be sure, we believe it happened, to be sure, but we don’t really give much thought to how it happened, or to what on earth–or in heaven–it means.  The former, perhaps, we can’t really know.  But the latter we should know.  Oliver O’Donovan offers some very thoughtful reflection on both in On the Thirty-Nine Articles (of which, apparently, a new edition is coming out in a few months!):

“For the meaning of Christ’s resurrection is that the renewal of creation has begun. In a body that represents ‘the perfection’ of man’s nature we see the first-fruits of a renewed mankind and a sign of the end to that ‘futility’ which characterizes all created nature in its ‘bondage to decay’ (Rom 8:19-21). There are two aspects to this renewal which have to be kept in a proper balance. On the one hand we must not understand the newness of the new creation as though it implied a repudiation of the old. The old creation is brought back into a condition of newness; it recovers its lost integrity and splendour. In the resurrection appearances of Jesus the disciples were offered a glimpse of what Adam was always meant to be: lord of the elements, free from the horror of death. On the other hand, restoration is not an end in itself. Adam’s ‘perfect’ humanity was made for a goal beyond the mere task of being human; it was made for an intimacy of communion with God. The last Adam, in restoring human nature, leads it to the goal which before it could not reach, brings it into the presence of God’s rule, where only the one who shared that rule could bring it. And so it is that the moment of triumph divides into two moments, a moment of recovery and a moment of advance. The resurrection must lead on to the ascension: ‘Do not hold me,’ said Jesus to Mary in the garden on the first Easter morning, ‘for I have not yet ascended to the Father.’ (Jn. 20:17). In the Western church we speak of God’s deed of ‘salvation,’ emphasising the aspect of recovery and deliverance from sin and death.  In the Eastern church they speak more commonly of theosis or ‘divinisation’, emphasising the advance beyond simple restoration to communion with the divine nature.  Both aspects are present; they are differentiated in the two steps of Christ’s exaltation.

Differentiated, but not therefore torn apart.  We cannot overlook the fact that of the four Gospels one, St. Mark, has nothing to say about the ascension; two, St. Matthew and St. John, hint at it allusively, and only one, St. Luke, narrates it as an event. In the theology of the Pauline epistles it remains, more often than not, undifferentiated from the resurrection.  The ascension, we must judge, does not stand over against the resurrection as the resurrection stands over against the crucifixion, it does not add a new element to the story which was not present before, but unfolds the implications of what is present already in the resurrection. Are we, then, to agree with Barth’s statement that ‘the empty tomb and the ascension are merely signs of the Easter event, just as the Virgin Birth is merely a sign of the nativity’?  No.  For, as Barth himself elsewhere wished to say, what the ascension shows us of the meaning of Christ’s triumph is distinct: It is the mark which defines one side of the resurrection, the elevation of Christ to the Father,  and therefore stands in contrast to the landmark which defines the other side, the empty tomb. In between them, holding the two boundary-marks together into one triumphant happening, are the actual appearances of the risen Christ throughout the forty days.

This raises the question of how we are to understand the ascension as an event. Can the statement, ‘he ascended into heaven’, stand alongside the statements, ‘he was crucified, died and was buried’ and, ‘on the third day he rose again’?  However problematic the statement of the resurrection may seem to be, the problems posed by the ascension are of a much more fundamental kind.  For ‘heaven’, ‘God’s throne’ and ‘the right hand of the Father’ are not places that can be mapped topographically within space.  The verb ‘ascended’, like the verb ‘came down’ in the creed, can refer to no spatial movement known to man.


Christians believe that God, in the person of his Son, has established communication between his being and our created space-time order. How else can we speak of this communication except ‘coming’ and ‘going’, as ‘up’ and ‘down’? We say that Christ ‘came down from Heaven’ and ‘ascended into Heaven’, yet do not think of the incarnation and ascension as journeys through space from one location to another, like a journey between the earth and the moon. As Athanasius said wittily: “When Christ sat on the right hand of the Father, he did not put the Father on his left.” These events are transitions between the universe of space and time that God has made and his being which is (in a sense that we can apprehend, but not comprehend) beyond it. Yet these transitions are ‘objective’ in the sense that they cannot be reduced to states, or occurrences, of Mind. The incarnation is not simply a mythic portrayal of the fellowship between men and God, nor the ascension of the triumph of the cross. Insofar as these transitions have one foot in our space and time, they are seen there as events — events which, however, have another end to them beyond the historical sequence of which, at this end, they form a part.

With this in mind let us think further about the ascension. Obviously, in one purely negative sense, it is an event in time: the resurrection appearances of Jesus came to an end. St. Luke makes it very clear that this is one important aspect of the ascension. It is the point at which Jesus is “taken from the disciples until he is restored to them at the end of time (Acts 1: 9,11). Even St Paul, who narrates his own vision of the risen Lord on the Damascus road as one of the resurrection appearances, acknowledges that it is ‘out of order’ (1 Cor. 15:8). But there is more that must be said about the event than that it was the cessation of the resurrection appearances. It is not only a ‘taking from’, it is a ‘taking up.’ It is a material event which involves the material body of Jesus; it leaves this spatio-temporal order to enter the immediate presence of the Creator…. This transition from the earth to Heaven is more than a reversal of the incarnation at which God ‘came down’; It is the elevation of man, physical spatio- temporal man, into an order that is greater than the physical and the spatio-temporal, and which is not his native habitat. What form does the human body take outside space and time as we know it?  Obviously, that is the unanswerable question, the one which earns St. Paul’s withering response, ‘You fool!’.  All we can say is that the transition has occurred, that there is a beaten path that lies before us, linking our physical existence to an existence in the presence of God which lies beyond its conditions We cannot see the path –the cloud which hid Jesus on the mountain-top is a veil for that which cannot be comprehended from below — but we know that the path has been taken and that we are to take it too.

In the same way that Jesus’s ascension means the elevation of humanity beyond the limits of ‘our’ space, it means also the elevation beyond the limits of ‘our’ time. Here we must guard against the suggestion in Article 4 [of the Thirty-Nine Articles] that Jesus is, as it were, killing time until his coming again: ‘he ascended . . . and there sitteth, until he return’. There is nothing wrong with these verbs; they represent, quite properly, the different points at which Christ’s triumph intersects with our time, past, present and future: he ascended, he sits, he shall return. But this time is our time; he is not bounded by it as we are, but is lord over it. We should not begin to ask what the ascended Lord is doing in the meantime, during the long wait before he must return.


What we see in the Epistle to the Hebrews is something very characteristic of the New Testament as a whole, the assertion that the Christ-event is the last thing in God’s plan for the world, and that with its completion the end of time has, in effect, already come.  We are seen to have our existence, as it were, in the middle of the end, in between the last things and the last things.  Still to come is the universal manifestation of Christ’s glory, but the time-lapse which separates that from the accomplishment of that glory in the ascension is of no significance.  It serves the function of permitting the gospel to be preached to the end of the earth, but it does not add to, or subtract from, God’s saving deed.  Thus we find, both in the Scriptures and in the creeds, that the ascension and the parousia (the return) of Christ are seen together, almost as one event.  When Christ sits down at the right hand of God, that is a gesture not of a patient waiting but of triumph.  The triumph is already achieved; it only remains for the triumph to be manifested universally.  Christ ascended has reached the fulfilment of man’s destiny; he is already at the end of time.  Mankind will follow him to that fulfilment.  Time is thus not an iron cage within which all events are bound, but a dimension of history–and in the fulfilment of the purpose of history in Christ, we see that time, too, is fulfilled.”

Nestorian or Universalist? Hart on Two Kingdoms

Although Darryl Hart, the stalwart and combative online defender of VanDrunen’s “Reformed two kingdoms” paradigm, has thus far (remarkably) left me almost entirely alone, my recent post on VanDrunen, Hooker, and Christology was brought to his attention via Nelson Kloostermann and elicited an interesting response:

Criticisms of 2k theology keep coming and a major source of opposition is the distinction between Christ’s rule as redeemer in distinction from his rule as creator. For some, this kind of division within Christ could wind up in the error of Nestorianism. And yet, I wonder how you avoid Rob Bell’s error of universalism without this distinction.” 

Now, oddly enough, nowhere in this post does Hart seek to confront or deflect the charge of Nestorianism, or of Christological confusions more generally.  Instead, the apparent logic of the post is “Well, Nestorian or not, it doesn’t matter, because it’s necessary, by golly!”  I could, in other words, triumphantly take this as a tacit acknowledgment of the basically Nestorian posture of the R2K movement.  Now, I daresay Dr. Hart would disclaim this interpretation; indeed, he would probably say that the reason he didn’t address the charge was that it was so patently absurd as not to warrant engagement.  However, as I did offer some rather detailed engagement with VanDrunen’s own words in several posts, and some careful analysis of their Christological implications, and as this is a very serious issue, I think some engagement or attempt at rebuttal is necessary.  

In any case, it’s worth pausing to try and see what is behind Hart’s somewhat perplexing counter-charge of universalism, and why the R2K Christology does rather more than guarding against this error.

 Hart says,

“This is what I have in mind. Most Reformed Protestants would likely admit that Glenn Beck and I have different relationships with Jesus Christ as savior and lord…In other words, when I pray the second petition of the Lord’s Prayer, “Thy Kingdom Come,” I am praying with regard to Beck that he become part of the kingdom, not that Christ would defend Beck and the rest of the church as part of the kingdom of grace’s battle with the kingdom of Satan….

 …if the kingdom is so broadened to include unbelievers and believers in it, then you seem to enter the ballpark of universalism where all God’s children are God’s children – you know, the fatherhood of God and the siblinghood of all people.

We do have, however, an easy way around the problem. It is to distinguish between Christ’s rule over Glenn Beck as creator, and his rule over me as creator and redeemer. I don’t know of any other way to avoid the problems of Anabaptism or Constantinianism than by affirming this distinction. Without it, Glenn Beck is not my worldly foe, but my brother in Christ. (If only.)”

In other words, clearly we must distinguish between the way Christ exercises his lordship over his saints, and the way he exercises lordship over unbelievers.  We must say that he does the former as redeemer, and the latter as creator.  And therefore, we must say the whole VanDrunenian nine yards–that there are two kingdoms, a spiritual which Christ rules as incarnate God-man, and a civil which he rules as eternal divine Son.


Now first of all, it’s worth noting that the “universalism” issue is a red herring.  There are all kinds of ways to avoid universalism, to distinguish between Christ’s rule over believers and over unbelievers.  For instance, one could give a Van Tillian antithesis account of how Christ relates to the two, an account that would not at all distinguish between “civil” and “spiritual” kingdoms.  But of course, Hart wants not only to assert the difference between me and Glenn Beck, but a sense in which we are precisely the same.  Therefore, he wants to say that Christ (or, if we are to be all precise and VanDrunenian about it, “the Son”) relates to Glenn Beck only civilly, whereas he relates to me both civilly and spiritually.  The distinction, in short, is not between the believer living in one relation to Christ and the unbeliever in another relation, but is in fact that the believer himself lives in two totally different relations to Christ.  This is what he’s really after–avoiding universalism without being an Anabaptist or Constantinian–which is, I must say, a rather different claim than the one he makes at the outset.


Now, my problem with the R2Ks is not that they distinguish between different aspects of Christ’s work, or different “offices” of Christ, or different relations in which Christ exists toward different people.  Everyone can acknowledge that.  But that isn’t, I don’t think, sufficient for what VanDrunen and Co. want to do.  (This replies also, by the way, to an unanswered comment on my original post, that suggested that the “Nestorian” tendencies were perhaps just careless language, and that the language of distinct “offices” of the one person Christ Jesus could serve the same purpose.)  For what they are seeking is an account of two different relations of Christ that are not complementary.  Christ’s work of redemption does not complement his work of creation, but stands completely unrelated to it.  Christ’s work of creation does not undergird his work of redemption, either, except in the purely formal sense that only beings that first exist can be redeemed.  This is what they want in their political theology: a civil sphere that is not oriented toward Christ’s work of redemption–that makes no claims about it, that is not affected by it, to which redemption is quite irrelevant.  It carries on its work in its own terms, without need of Christ’s revelation or redemption, and without contribution to the ongoing work of redemption; and an ecclesial sphere that is not concerned with matters relating to the creation, or of trying to influence any human social realities other than those called into being by Christ’s redeeming work.  These two realms have different subject matters, different ends, different standards, different ethical postures, etc.  

So, can we really say that Jesus Christ created the world without a view toward his intended work of redemption and new creation?  Can we really say that he came to redeem us without respect to our relation to him as his creatures?  No.  If so, there is really no reason why it had to be the same person; God might as well have sent the Spirit to do the work of redemption.  It is no surprise, in view of this, that VanDrunen denies that we should really call the creator of the world “Christ”–he is for all practical purposes a different person, carrying on an unrelated task.  On the contrary, to be orthodox we must affirm that these two works were completely complementary–they have no meaning without one another.  Creation can only be understood in terms of new creation, and new creation can only be understood in terms of the original creation.  How are Christ’s works to have meaning except in light of one another?  Redemption is the undoing of sin, and sin is the undoing of the original creation–therefore, creation provides the categories for understanding redemption, and vice versa.  


And this being so, it has political-theological consequences.  It means that Christ’s redemptive work in the Church always challenges the fallenness and incompleteness of the creation that this work enters into, giving us ethical imperatives that do not leave surrounding social structures or practices unaffected.  It means that the created structures that Christ governs as creator are to be redirected in light of redemption, and must serve Christ’s redemptive work in the Church.  They may, of course, in many cases not do so, may merely serve to perpetuate the structures of fallen creation.  This is of course not wholly bad, inasmuch as creation, however fallen, is still good, but it is not sufficient.  Christians will insist that the imperfect structures of creation be re-ordered in service to Christ’s redeeming purpose.  Which is, of course, precisely what Calvin and the Reformers said, I have to add.

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.  đŸ˜‰

“No Where Severed”: The Problem of Ubiquity (Hooker’s Christology, Pt. 4)

Having established the personal identity between the eternal Word and the man Christ Jesus, the complete distinction and unimpaired integrity of the two natures, and the sense in which Christ’s humanity is glorified by its union with the Word, Hooker turns in chapter 55 of Book V to expound much more carefully the hotly-disputed question of ubiquity, which had driven a rift between the Lutheran and Reformed churches, a very serious rift indeed, touching as it did the crucial mystery of the Christian faith.  

Hooker, while operating within a basically Reformed Christology, seeks to articulate the question of ubiquity in a way that does as much justice as possible to the things the Lutherans wanted to emphasize.  This is quite a delicate theological operation, and it’s worth looking closely at how Hooker conducts it. 


He begins by affirming the tremendous importance of the question, since our salvation depends on union with Christ, and union with Christ requires an account of how Christ could be personally present to us.  He then lays down a key foundational principle, that he touched on already in ch. 53–that no nature can be both finite and infinite, and all created natures are finite: “Out of which premises wee can conclude not only that nothinge created can possiblie be unlimited or can receave any such accident qualitie or propertie as may reallie make it infinite (for then should it cease to be a creature) but also that everie creaturs limitation is accordinge to his own kinde, and therefore as oft as wee note in them any thinge above theire kinde it argueth that the same is not properly theires but groweth in them from a cause more powerfull then they are” (V.55.2).

This principle tells us that when inquiring of the omnipresence of Christ, we must be dealing with a property of his divinity: “Wherefore Christ is essentiallie present with all thinges in that he is verie God, but not present with all thinges as man, because manhood and the partes thereof can neither be the cause nor the true subject of such presence” (V.55.4). So far so good–standard Reformed stuff.  

Hooker then turns to ask what the Lutheran doctrine of ubiquity would require: “if Christ in that he is man be everie where present, seinge this commeth not by the nature of manhood it selfe, there is no other waie how it should grow but either by the grace of union with deitie, or by the grace of unction received from deitie” (V.55.6)  You may recall that Hooker has spelled out in the previous chapter what is involved in each of these two “graces.”  Regarding the former, the grace of union, he established that the attributes of each nature are not communicated to the other nature, but the natures continue each the same nature that they were before, in unimpaired integrity–standard Chalcedonian stuff.  What about the grace of unction?

“And concerninge the grace of unction, wherein are conteined the guifes and vertues which Christ as man hath above men, they make him reallie and habituallie a man more excellent then we are, they take not from him the nature and substance that wee have, they cause not his soul nor bodie to be of an other kinde then oures is.  Supernaturall endowments are an advancement, they are no extinguishment of that nature whereto they are given” (V.55.6). 

We have already seen in the previous post how this logic works–an advancement of the human nature within the perfections proper to it, not a transcendence of that nature to another nature entirely.  Could ubiquity then be a perfection proper to the advancement of human nature?  Hooker answers a firm no:

“If his majesticall bodiie have now anie such nue propertie by force whereof it may everie where reallie even in substance present it selfe, or may at once be in many places, then hath the majesty of his estate extinguisht the veritie of his nature….To conclude, wee hold it in regard of the forealleaged proofes a most infallible truth that Christ as man is not everie where present as man” (V.55.6, 7).


Things aren’t looking very good for the Lutherans.  But then comes a crucial word–“Yeat”:

“Yeat because this [human] substance is inseparablie joyned to that personall worde which by his verie divine essence is present with all thinges, the nature which cannot have in it selfe universall presence hath it after a sorte by beinge no where severed from that which everie where is present.  For in as much as that infinite word is not divisible into partes, it could not in parte but must needes be whollie incarnate, and consequentlie wheresoever the word is it hath with it manhood.  Els should the worde be in parte or somewhere God only and not man which is impossible.  For the person of Christ is whole, perfect God and perfect man” (V.55.7).  

Now this is interesting stuff.  

Premise 1: The Word is fully and inseparably joined to human substance.  
Premise 2: The Word is indivisible.
First conclusion: Human substance must be everywhere the Word is.
Premise 3: The Word is everywhere.
Conclusion: Human substance must be everywhere.


Now, how is this going to work?  Well, in view of the limitations previously sketched,

“wee cannot say that the whole of Christ is simplie everie where, as wee may that his deitie is and that his person is by force of deitie.  For somewhat of the person of Christ is not everie where in that sorte namelie his manhood, the only conjunction whereof with deitie is extended as farre as deitie, the actual position restrained and tied to a certaine place.  Yeat preasence by waie of conjunction is in some sorte presence” (V.55.7).

So, the human nature can not be present everywhere by way of position…but it can be present by way of conjunction–it is always united to that which is present everywhere.  One has a feeling that modern quantum mechanics might be rather helpful in helping us sort out some of these metaphysical quandaries.  But although we might have difficulties articulating exactly how presence by way of conjunction works, Hooker’s next category may seem to us more fruitful, employing as it does more “actualistic” language that will please the Barthian in all of us.  


For we may also speak of the humanity’s presence by way of “cooperation with deitie”:

“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.  The Sonne of God which did first humble him selfe by takinge our flesh upon him, descended afterwardes much lower and became accordinge to the flesh obedient so farre as to suffer death even the death of the crosse for all men because such was his fathers will” (V.55.8).  

This humiliation of the manhood is followed by its exaltation:

“as accordinge to his manhood he had glorified God on earth, so God hath glorified in heaven that nature which yealded him obedience and hath given unto Chirst even in that he is man such fullness of power over the whole world that he which before fulfilled in the state of humilitie and patience whatsoever God did require, doth now raigne in glorie till the time that all thinges be restored” (V.55.8).  

We saw some of this already in the last section–the very exciting notion that the Incarnation means that humanity is now made a participant in all that God does, a co-worker of deity–God works nothing now that he does not work through and with a human being, Jesus Christ.  Thus, wherever the Word is at work–indwelling human souls, in the Eucharist, etc.–there is the human nature at work.  This is what we confess in the doctrine of the ascension–that the human nature has now been glorified to participate in the Son’s reigning over all things–formerly as God, now as God and man.

In short, “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.”  How does this cooperation work?  “By knowledge and assent the soule of Chirst is present with all thinges which the deitie of Christ worketh” (V.55.8)

This much, though, applies only to the human soul of Christ, not his human body, which is what the Lutherans are after–after all, this is at root a dispute over his body and blood in the Eucharistic elements.  For this, Hooker returns to the earlier category of conjunction:   “For his bodie being a parte of that nature which whole nature is presentlie joyned unto deitie wheresoever deitie is, it followeth that his bodilie substance hath everie where a presence of true conjunction with deitie” (V.55.9).  

Finally, Hooker introduces, though very briefly, a third category: “And for as much as it is by vertue of that conjunction made the bodie of the Sonne of God by whome also it was made a sacrifice for the synnes of the whole world, this giveth it a presence of force and efficacie throughout all generations of men” (V.55.9).  The sacrificed body of Christ, which is a human body, is of infinite value and saving efficacy by virtue of its conjunction with deity, and therefore, it is “it selfe infinite in possibilitie of application”–the power of Christ’s body, then, even if not its actual physical substance, can be present everywhere in the Eucharist.  This last is very Calvinian language, and, one might add, closer perhaps to the original intention of “substance” language in the doctrine of transubstantiation, in which substance was to be understood as the dynamic power of something rather than its physical properties.  

Hooker thus concludes, hoping in all this to have so far extended a bridge to the Lutherans that they should have nothing more to complain about: “Which thinges indifferently everie way considered, that gratious promise of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ concerninge presence with his to the verie ende of the world, I see no cause but that wee may well and safely interpret he doth performe both as God by essentiall presence of deitie, and as man in that order sense and meaninge which hath bene shown” (V.55.9).   


All of this material, I need scarcely add, is pregnant with significance not merely for Eucharistic theology, but also for ecclesiology and political theology.  I have little doubt that as I spend the next couple years with Hooker, I shall have ample occasion to reflect on these latter connections and implications.  Suffice for now to mention just one, because it is one that Hooker makes explicit in Book VIII of the Lawes, contra Cartwright, in an argument which proves devastating not only to the Puritan political theology/ecclesiology, but also to our familiar whipping-boy VanDrunen, who shares the same Christological paradigm.  The short version is this: if it is true that by virtue of the incarnation and ascension, human nature is made a sharer in all the operations proper to the eternal Word,  that in reigning at the right hand of God over all creation the Son of God rules now as Son of Man, then the whole “two mediatorship” paradigm collapses as heterodox.  Christ does not rule over creation as Son of God and over redemption as Son of Man, because Christ is Son of God and Son of Man inseparably now, and as redeeming Son of Man, he cannot but be a co-agent with God in all of the divine reign over every aspect of creation, political life included.  

(If this last bit intrigues you, don’t worry; you can bet on my posting much more along these lines over the coming months and years.)