Mike


Dedicated to the Passionate Pursuit of the Glory of God.



Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.

Name: Mike
Location: California, United States
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Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Nature of the Incarnation and the Eucharist


Since the Council of Chalcedon, Christians have affirmed four key tenets regarding Christ:

1. Jesus is fully and completely God.
2. Jesus is fully and completely human.
3. Jesus has two distinct natures that remain unconfused.
4. Jesus' two natures are united in one person.

From the Chalcedonian Creed:
"our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood"
"truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body
"to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably"
"the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word"


Point 3 from my summary and the embolden text from the creed is the key point for this discussion.

Jesus is born with a Human body and with it comes all that is essentially human. His humanity is joined together with the Divine nature. Accordingly, he always has two natures. Nothing is lost and the natures are never mixed or confused. This is where the "rubber meets the road" because there are some who affirm a doctrine of the "communications of attributes" where Jesus' humanity is supposed to have taken upon the devine attributes. Besides the fact that this is a denial of the Council of Chalcedon's conclusion that the natures are not mixed, this leads to other problems. The most notable example is when we look at Thomas Aquinas. He held to this doctrine and consequently had a terrible time understanding how Jesus could tell his diciples that He did not not know the time of His returning but only the father knew. Ultimately he has to justify this teaching by saying something that sounds very similar to Jesus deceiving his disciples. Whatever the end product may be, this is completely unnecessary. As long as we maintain the proper distinction between Humanity and Divinity then we are fine. This allows for a Jesus who is tired, sweating, bleeding, dying, not knowing, etc.

Now for the key point:
If Jesus' body belongs to His human nature (as is confirmed by such things as dying, bleeding, sweating, eating, etc.) and that natures are not confused or mixed, then Jesus' body is not omni-present. Only the Divine nature is omni-present. This is why we can have Jesus sitting at the right hand of the throne of God (in a spacially confined body) and yet be with us always (as the omni-present God). His divine nature is with us always. There is not one who would contend that Jesus' body is with us at all times.

So, assuming Jesus' humanity is not omni-present and His Divinity is then what follows?
Communion / the Eucharist is taken by hundreds of thousands of people at the same time across the world. To be in All of these places at one time Physically requires what only belongs to the Human Nature. Since we have decided that the Human-Nature (and the Body that belongs to said nature) is not omni-present then we must rule out both Transubstantiation and Consubstantiation.

Hence, we must reject both the Roman and Lutheran errors on this doctrine not primarily on the basis of the Bread and Wine itself but rather on the basis of proper Incarnation Theology. Scripture alone provides very little help if we must only address the Bread and Wine. Jesus says that the elements are his body. Does He mean that the elements represent His body? Does He mean that the elements consist of His body? It is impossible to tell from the few verses that we have. If we impose a hyper-literalism and demand that this means that the elements consist of Jesus' body then we must be prepared to boldly declare that the Tongue consists of Fire as the same verb and structure is present in James' epistle.

Since Scriptural evidence regarding the Bread and Wine alone are inconclusive, we must use the principle of Scripture interprets Scripture. We have conclusive Scripture to deduce a proper theology of the Incarnation as is properly defined at Chalcedon. Using this Scripture to interpret verses about the elements reveals that Jesus is present in a real way at the table, but not in a physical way. To deny either of these realities is to A) make Communion of no import or B) compromise the incarnation.

In Christ alone,
mike

3 Comments:

Blogger Joel said...

So, assuming Jesus' humanity is not omni-present and His Divinity is then what follows?
Communion / the Eucharist is taken by hundreds of thousands of people at the same time across the world. To be in All of these places at one time Physically requires what only belongs to the Human Nature. Since we have decided that the Human-Nature (and the Body that belongs to said nature) is not omni-present then we must rule out both Transubstanciation and Consubstanciation.


I know it's a little late to comment on this, but there's a slip of logic here. First, to say that the Body of Christ is in multiple places at once is not to say that it's omnipresent. Omnipresence would make the Real Presence irrelevant, as one place wouldn't contain His Body any more than another.

Second, the miracle of transubstantiation is held not only to transcend space but time as well, being a re-distribution of that sacrifice at Calvary that has already occurred at a specific point in time (once for all).

Finally, the various accounts of Christ's appearances after the Resurrection suggest that His body may not have been as limited as our corrupted ones in its ability to be in more than one place at once. Certainly it's reasonable to surmise that it was capable of many things that ours are not.

11:50 AM  
Blogger Joel said...

It's also worth noting that the doctrine of the Real Rresence was well-established as orthodox long before Chalcedon and continued unabated after it, which suggests that the Council's christological definitions weren't intended to affect it.

11:55 AM  
Blogger Mike Garner said...

Joel,

The doctrine of the "real presence" as you have called it has been a matter of debate in several different time frams. The early church is no different. There were those who who hold to a transubstanciation view and others who would reject it strongly.

Also, it was not my contention that Chalcedon was formed to alter or adjust Eucharist teachings. That would be untrue. However, it does follow from Chalcedonian logic that the physical body of Jesus could not be in more than one place at one time.

"First, to say that the Body of Christ is in multiple places at once is not to say that it's omnipresent."


Correct. But to say that the body is limited to one place at a time is to reject omnipresence.



Second, the miracle of transubstantiation is held not only to transcend space but time as well, being a re-distribution of that sacrifice at Calvary that has already occurred at a specific point in time (once for all).


And you might guess correctly that I would reject this as well.


Finally, the various accounts of Christ's appearances after the Resurrection suggest that His body may not have been as limited as our corrupted ones in its ability to be in more than one place at once. Certainly it's reasonable to surmise that it was capable of many things that ours are not.


Well, there is not really an argument here so it is difficult to respond. However, I would contend that there is nothing that necessitates us holding this view. To argue for it is clearly to read one's view of the Lord's Supper back into the text. There is nothing about Jesus' body that would make us conclude that He was substancialy different. Some have tried to suggest that he appeared inside of a locked door ... like he warped in or something ... but a basic reading of the text does not require this at all.

Now, I would agree that there is not conclusive evidence from Jesus' resurrected body. For you or I to base our view on this would be eisogesis. However, we do have other teachings of Scripture and two thousand years of Christology that can assist us. As I stated in my post, I think that this requires a rejection of both transubstanciation and consubstanciation.


In Christ alone,
mike

3:24 PM  

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