Friday, February 19, 2010

Like Us - Except Without Sin - Further Response to Edward Reiss

Edward Reiss has posted a further response (link) in our on-going discussion on Christ and his human nature. Reiss states:
When I say Jesus' human nature is divinized, what do I mean? I do not mean that the divine nature is mixed with the human nature, what I mean is that the union of the two natures in the one person of Jesus Christ makes his human nature divinized such that it participates in divinity to a degree no one else can.
First, Reiss has the cart before the horse. The Word was made flesh - not the flesh made Word. The Son of God was incarnated - it is what we call the Nestorian error (or something close to) to treat Christ as though he was a human who became divinized.

Second, the hypostatic union brought about by the Incarnation (one person in two natures) is an absolutely unique event. It has no precedent, no adequate analog, and it will have no sequel. There always has been a Trinity, and there will never be a Quadernity - and while there is perhaps nothing that prevents the Father or Spirit being Incarnate, there is no reason for such an event, the Son has fulfilled his task and purpose in the Incarnation:

Hebrews 2:14-18
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

Third, notice that in the passage above he took on precisely human nature. Not something close to human nature, but true flesh and blood. The only difference being that Christ was without sin:

Hebrews 4:15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.

Reiss states:
Turretin Fan said that Jesus' unique authority does not suggest his humanity is any different than ours. But that depends on what we mean by "different". How does Jesus' human nature participate meaningfully in any miracles? To be consistent, Turretin Fan would have to say that because our human nature cannot perform miracles, it was only Jesus' divinity which performed miracles. But how is that done without falling into some species of Nestorianism?
Part of the confusion seems to be Reiss' use of the term "participate" and especially "meaningfully participate." These vague expressions seem to be the reason for Reiss to apparently confuse the natures and attribute to the human nature things that are properly divine.

Reiss does not think that Moses' human nature "participated meaningfully" (whatever Reiss is intending to mean by that) in Moses' miracles (we can infer this from the fact that Reiss does not call Moses' flesh "divinized"), but Reiss insists (without explanation or reason) that Christ's human nature must "participate meaningfully" or we run into Nestorianism because, according to Reiss, "if the divine nature 'does' something apart from Jesus' human nature that immediately implies a divine person and a human person ... ."

Reiss brings in this vague word "participate" and then asks, in the conclusion of his post:
So, I would like to ask Turretin (or any one else) in what sense does the person Jesus Christ hold together all things, and in what way does his humanity participate in this without dividing the person?
The answer, of course, is that he himself hasn't defined what "participation" means. He's picked a vague word to discuss the issue and left it undefined. One could say that Moses had some sort of "participation" in at least some of the miracles he performed. However, since not every sense of "participation" will work for Reiss' system, we aren't sure what new touchstone of orthodoxy he wants to set forth. We're also a little confused by his "to a degree no one else can" since the difference between the hypostatic union and ordinary men is not one of degree.

The fact that Jesus is one person doesn't justify a confusion of the natures. Yet Reiss' question seems to suggest that we ought to confuse the natures and attribute the supernatural power of the divine specifically to the flesh Christ took from Mary. While some amount of improper (i.e. imprecise) characterization is orthodox (we're not required always to carefully maintain the lines of distinction between the natures whenever we speak), nevertheless when we speak of Christ's flesh and blood properly and precisely, it is the same as ours, except that it is not tainted by sin. Since Reiss hasn't defined "participate" we can't be sure, however, whether he is confusing or blending the natures when he says: "his human nature divinized such that it participates in divinity to a degree no one else can."

- TurretinFan

13 comments:

natamllc said...

IMO Reiss hasn't settled the issue in the same way or wisdom that the Apostle Paul has? His position, is an open ended argument that he cannot settle; but it can be settled with Scripture.

Here's how.

We can settle this issue with Scriptures if we live by the Faith once delivered to the Saints.

Here is how the Apostle Paul settles the issue and it seems to me Edward wants to "go beyond" this by how he is locating Christ the Son of God with Christ the son of Adam incarnated into the world through His birth and wonderfully demonstrated Life in this world through the Virgin:::>

Eph 3:8 To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

Note the Greek Word Paul the Apostle uses for "unsearchable":::>

ἀνεξιχνίαστος
anexichniastos
an-ex-ikh-nee'-as-tos
From G1 (as a negative particle) and a presumed derivative of a compound of G1537 and a derivative of G2487; not tracked out, that is, (by implication) untraceable: - past finding out, unsearchable.

Of course, my question to Mr. Reiss would be one along this line: "Why not just accept that you have gone beyond where God would have you go as the Apostle John writes?": here:::>

2Jn 1:8 Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.
2Jn 1:9 Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.
2Jn 1:10 If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting,
2Jn 1:11 for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.
2Jn 1:12 Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

Just two things to note here. One is the implied understanding within verse 9 and it seems to me this is where Edward leaves off sound reason and enters into the no man's zone of mystical Biblical Christianity. And two, according to verse 12, there are just some things of the mystery of Christ that we should not "write" about, but speak about in person and for that reason alone, while this exchange is not bad, but necessary, to point out that maybe Edward wants to cross the line over into trying to describe some of the Work of Christ by this means and it is failing him as the apparent protestation being made about it reveals?

Oh, and let me be very very very very clear on this point, I do not for a moment think Edward Reiss is a "wicked" man, that is, an enemy of Christ. I do think that some of the reasonings though cross the line of all sound doctrine.

Edward Reiss said...

TFan,

I think at this point we have reduced the arguments to the historical differences between the Reformed churches and the Lutheran churches. There is a real difference in emphasis between the two camps.

If you are interested, here is a link to an article written by a Reformed theologian who questions recent statements by some faculty at Westminster Seminary. (It seems traditional to me, but I may be wrong).

Here is the link:

http://aboulet.com/2008/05/20/reformed-christology-and-the-westminster-htfc-report/

Money quote" "As is well known, Reformed Christology was born out of a conflict with the Lutherans over the nature of Christ’s presence in the Lord’s Supper. As the debate unfolded, both sides made appeal to Chalcedon (and to the theologies of various Church Fathers) in their efforts to establish their case. But they differed in laying emphasis on differing parts of the Chalcedonian Definition. The Lutherans placed all of their weight on the unity of the Person. The Reformed placed the emphasis upon the formula “two natures unimpaired in their original integrity subsequent to their union.” As Calvin put it, “For we affirm his divinity so joined and united with his humanity that each retains its distinctive nature unimpaired, and yet these two natures constitute one Christ” (Institutes II.xiv.1).1 This was said in order to lay a foundation for the rejection of the Lutheran doctrine of a direct communion or inter-penetration of the natures. The properties of each nature, the Reformed said, are rightly ascribed to the “person” but not to each other. God remains God, the human remains human – precisely in the hypostatic union."

I don't think we will settle this, and I think we are both "preaching to the choir" to some degree.

Edward Reiss said...

TFan,

Needless to say, Lutherans do not share the Reformed emphases.

Turretinfan said...

"The Lutherans placed all of their weight on the unity of the Person. The Reformed placed the emphasis upon the formula “two natures unimpaired in their original integrity subsequent to their union.”"

For whatever it is worth, my recollection of why Chalcedon was called had to do with the latter kinds of errors (failure to maintain two unimpaired natures) not the former kind of errors (failure to maintain the unity of the person).

Viisaus said...

"For whatever it is worth, my recollection of why Chalcedon was called had to do with the latter kinds of errors (failure to maintain two unimpaired natures) not the former kind of errors (failure to maintain the unity of the person)."


Quite right; it was the council of Ephesus (431) that condemned Nestorianism. (Not to be confused with 449 "robber council" of Ephesus.) Whereas Chalcedon (451) was called to stop Monophysite Eutychianism.

The council actually largely failed in that goal - Byzantine provinces of Egypt, Syria and Armenia remained heavily populated by anti-Chalcedonians till the arrival of Muslim Arabs:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Council_of_Chalcedon#Consequences_of_the_council

"The near-immediate result of the council was a major schism. The bishops that were uneasy with the language of Pope Leo's Tome repudiated the council, saying that the acceptance of two physes was tantamount to Nestorianism. Dioscorus, the Patriarch of Alexandria, advocated miaphysitism and had dominated the Council of Ephesus.[11] Churches that rejected Chalcedon in favor of Ephesus broke off from the rest of the Church in a schism. These churches compose Oriental Orthodoxy, with the Church of Alexandria as their spiritual leader."

Edward Reiss said...

Interestingly, the Reformed author in the article states that the Lutheran view is the most likely interpretation of Chalcidon. While it doesn;t win the argument, I think simplistic claims of what Chalcidon was about read too much into history.

natamllc said...

Edward, that is Mr. Reiss,

"....Interestingly, the Reformed author in the article states that the Lutheran view is the most likely interpretation of Chalcidon. While it doesn;t win the argument, I think simplistic claims of what Chalcidon was about read too much into history....".


That is a historical question and I would know kindly from you, are you going to forego proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom to every opportunity, without regard to that argument? Because it seems to be unsettled, are you going to bog down in it keeping you from your duty to bring this Gospel of the Kingdom to as many as you can?

My point is, whether you will side here or there, what does that have to do with the general call upon all of us "who" have received the Faith once delivered to the Saints to bring this Gospel of the Kingdom to every creature for a witness so that the end shall come?

We can continue the debate at the same time as we can proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom to this dark world, can we not? And not make the nuance of the issue a part of that Kingdom proclamation?

You believe as Luther that we are simultaneous, yes? We are both Saint and sinner until we pass, the one going up while the other going back to the earth from whence it came?

Is the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom predicated on the relevance of this unsettled argument?

Oh, and by the way, isn't "Chalcidon" properly spelled Chalcedon?

Edward Reiss said...

NAt,

"Is the proclamation of the Gospel of the Kingdom predicated on the relevance of this unsettled argument?"

From a Lutheran standpoint, a Reformed proclamation of the Gospel is severely defective because of a denial of the Real Presence and the doctrine of limited atonement. So, in the interests of preaching the Gospel to the world, will you accept the Real Presence, universal atonement and stop arguing about it?

That is how your comments come across to me.

natamllc said...

Ed,

I hope you are not offended with me referring to you as Ed?

Are you dodging the question?

Edward Reiss said...

Nat,

I am not offended, and I don't think it is unsettled. For that reason I don't see how I am avoiding the question. I just think the Reformed are wrong on Christology, though I don't really think they are full-blown Nestorians as some claim.

Also, I would like to know if you ask the same questions of e.g. Rhology when he argues about these things?

natamllc said...

I haven't as yet found something to argue with him, but just it time as I have found myself arguing with myself before on not just one or two occasions! :)

I respect your views. I just don't happen to carry any weight with them right now.

My Church is looking deeply into both Luther's thinking and many of the men who have been influenced by him. We are also looking deeply into Calvin's thinking and some of the men who have been influenced by him.

I cannot conclude for one side or the other. On this matter though I believe there isn't a settled peace and my point was to see if you are evangelistic in any event.

Thank you for engaging in this argument with me.

Where do you see I am off, if you see it from my responses?

L P said...

TF,

First, Reiss has the cart before the horse. The Word was made flesh - not the flesh made Word. The Son of God was incarnated - it is what we call the Nestorian error (or something close to) to treat Christ as though he was a human who became divinized.

I disagree; that is not Nestorianism, may be you meant Monophysitism. But I do not think as I read Edward's statement is guilty of this manner of speaking either.

Natammllc,

You asked Edward if he would still evangelize. I won't speak for Edward but as also a Lutheran, we are confessors, so we continue to confess, the Gospel. We continue to confess, teach and believe even if we have not settled other issues.

Do I believe Lutheranism has a case that the Zwinglian and Calvinistic view of the LS undermine the Gospel? I think I do believe that a case can be made, but that is the whole point of the discussion between TF and Edward right now.

From http://aliengoodnews.wordpress.com/

“As Luther once went the lonely way between Rome and Spiritualism, so the Lutheran Church today stands alone between the world powers of Roman Catholicism on the one hand and modern Protestantism on the other. Her doctrine which teaches that the Spirit is bound to the means of grace is as inconceivable to modern people in the twentieth century as it was to their predecessors in the sixteenth.”

LPC

Turretinfan said...

"I disagree; that is not Nestorianism, may be you meant Monophysitism. But I do not think as I read Edward's statement is guilty of this manner of speaking either."

a) I think Edward is inconsistent, not heretical.

b) Yes, claiming that there are two persons, a human Christ and a divine Logos, is one of the definitions of the Nestorian heresy.