An Advent Prayer

(composed for Advent Sunday 2011 at St. Paul’s and St. George’s Church, Edinburgh)

O come, O come, Emmanuel,
And ransom captive Israel,
That mourns in lonely exile here
Until the Son of God appear.

Lord Jesus, for whose coming Zechariah, Elizabeth, and all the faithful of Israel waited with longing two millenia ago, hear the prayers of your hungry people today.  We mourn in exile from your presence, conscious of the sins that separate us from you, conscious of our faithlessness in the task you have given us to be the lights of the world.  Lord, we are a barren people–our faith is weak, our hearts are cold, our churches are empty.  Lord Jesus, Hope of Israel, who once did condescend to born of a virgin in a stable, be born among us again today, and give us the eyes to see you in your humility.  Be born among us in the preaching each Sunday that we hear and the sacrament we share.  Be born among us in small groups where we fellowship and hear you speaking to us through one another.  Be born among us in our ministries to the lost and to the needy, in the Alpha Course as we display your truth, in our ministries with Bethany as we display your love, in our singing and worship as we display your beauty.  Renew this church, and all your churches, with the power of your presence, with the terror and comfort of your word, with the courage to follow you on the path of love without pretense, love without measure.

 

O come, Thou Rod of Jesse, free
Thine own from Satan’s tyranny;
From depths of hell Thy people save,
And give them victory over the grave. 

Christ, Creator, by whose all-powerful word was all brought into being, re-Creator, by whose powerless death was all made new, redeem us again from the pit.  Only-begotten from all eternity, you were born, like each of us, to die, but death did not hold you, and now it has lost its hold on us.  And yet, Lord, the power of death, the stain of sin, remains every day with us–in the violence of the murderer and the rapist, in the despair of a mother who cannot feed her children, in the insatiable greed that defrauds and bankrupts the vulnerable; but also in the angry word that springs so readily to our lips, in the self-absorption that passes heedlessly by someone in need, in the restless discontentment that  drives the wheels of commerce.  Forgive each of us for these sins that are our own, and for the sins of others that we do nothing to oppose and to heal.  Remind us that you have forgiven us, and give us the confidence to forgive others in our turn.  Saviour, Redeemer, Deliverer, rescue us again by your power and love, show mercy to the downtrodden and strengthen us to do the same.  

 

O come, Desire of nations, bind
In one the hearts of all mankind;
Bid Thou our sad divisions cease,
And be Thyself our King of Peace. 

King of Israel, you are also Lord of the nations, before whom every knee shall bow, and whom every tongue shall confess.  And yet our rulers neither confess your name nor bow before you; instead we find the god of Mammon everywhere enthroned, and war a favorite tool to serve agendas of greed and power.  Prejudice and xenophobia divide us from one another, suspicion rather than sympathy is our default.  Lord, we pray for Britain, that you would humble its pride and restrain its greed.  Give us just leaders who protect the poor and the voiceless, rather than the powerful and influential, and who welcome the stranger, rather than turning them away.  Lord, we pray also for America, still infatuated with her power and intoxicated with her wealth, concerned only with maintaining her own position.  Give her leaders who will bow the knee to your kingship.  We pray for leaders in the Arab world and in Israel who maintain their position by violence, make them submit to the Prince of peace.  We pray for young nations that are leaderless and directionless–provide for them order and justice.  We pray for leaders in India and China, nations that will direct the destiny of our world in decades to come; fill those nations with the light of your word today, that they may advance your kingdom tomorrow.  

 

O come, Thou Day-spring, come and cheer
Our spirits by Thine advent here;
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night,
And death’s dark shadows put to flight.
 

Light of the World, we see your light dawning already in every corner of our globe.  You have come, in answer to the longings of the ages, and the world is still echoing with the wonder of that great event.  In nearly every nation and tribe are faithful disciples who call on your name; even among those who have tried so hard to forget you, you haunt their imaginations.  Your kingdom has left its mark on our language, our music, our laws, our buildings.  Lord, fill us with hope and joy this advent, recognizing amidst these short days and long nights that the darkness is breaking, remembering during the cold and the frost that the winter is ending, that you both have come and are coming again.  Lord, let this exhilarating realization animate our every thought and deed.  When we are frightened, let us take comfort in the thought.  When we are tired, let it energize us.  When we are heedless and turned inward on ourselves, let it call us to attention.  When we are in despair, let it give us hope.  When we are angry, let it make us ashamed.  Lord, let each of our lives and each of our churches reflect the glorious proclamation that our King reigns and our King is coming.

 

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever.  Amen.


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.” 


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˜‰


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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



“In Four Words” (Hooker’s Christology Intermezzo)

I will, as promised, be getting to the latter installments of the discussion of Hooker’s Christology very shortly; in the meantime, however, I thought I would put up this little gem, which didn’t seem to fit within the compass of any of the planned posts, but which it would’ve been a terrible shame to omit.  At the end of V.54, in one of his most famous little passages, Hooker encapsulates in a delightfully tidy little nutshell the entire structure of orthodox Christology, and the various heresies that have challenged it (I have modernized the spelling and punctuation this time, mindful that not everyone gets as much of a kick out of “four” being spelled “fower” as I do):

“To gather therefore into one sum all that hitherto hath been spoken touching this point, there are but four things which concur to make complete the whole state of our Lord Jesus Christ: his deity, his manhood, the conjunction of both, and the distinction of the one from the other being joined in one.  Four principal heresies there are which have in those things withstood the truth: Arians by bending themselves against the deity of Christ; Apollinarians by maiming and misinterpreting that which belongeth to his human nature; Nestorians by rending Christ asunder and dividing him into two persons; the followers of Eutyches by confounding in his person those natures which they should distinguish.  Against these there have been four most famous ancient general Councils: the Council of Nicaea to define against Arians; against Apollinarians the Council of Constantinople; the Council of Ephesus against Nestorians; against Eutychians the Chalcedon Council.

In four words alethos, teleos, adiairetos, asynchytos–truly, perfectly, indivisibly, distinctly; the first applied to his being God, and the second to his being man, the third to his being of both one, and fourth to his still continuing in that one both, we may fully by way of abridgement comprise whatsoever antiquity hath at large handled either in declaration of Christian belief or in refutation of the foresaid heresies.  Within the compass of which four heads, I may truly affirm that all heresies which touch but the person of Jesus Christ, whether they have risen in these later days, or in any age heretofore, may be with great facility brought to confine themselves.  We conclude therefore that to save the world it was of necessity the Son of God should be thus incarnate, and that God should so be in Christ as hath been declared.”