Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Across the Spectrum: Chapter 7 - The Christology Debate

Continuing the thread started in this post and continued in this post, this post and this one.

Chapter 7: The Christology Debate
Position 1: The unavoidable paradox of the God-man
Position 2: Christ relinquished his divine prerogatives

This is an interesting one, and again I am not completely convinced by either side in the debate. If you hold the God-man position firmly, it leads on to a number of other beliefs that are apparently contrary to scripture - such as the ability of Jesus's disciples to do 'greater things' than he did. If his power was his divine power, then nobody who followed after could do things like he did, let alone transcend them. This leads to a cessasionist stance, which we will come to in a future post. It also makes it impossible for us to follow his example. WWJD? Use his divine power to resolve a situation... Not very useful as a guide to living.

Also, this leads to a very complicated 'two minds' belief in which Jesus had two distinct minds (personalities?) in his make-up, and the divine one wouldn't let the other know certain things. Eh? This just leads to inconsistencies.

But, the other position ('Kenotic') leads to the problem of what happened after the ascension (as I blogged about a few months back) - if Christ had to 'empty himself' of his divinity to become human, then either he still is a limited human (which nobody seems to believe) or he ceased to be human after the ascension (which nobody seems to believe either). So some serious 'explaining away' has to be done.

For what its worth, I find the Kenotic view more compelling, even if it raises as many issues as it solves. Once again, I find an agnostic position ('I don't know') is the best stance to take.

The more I work through these issues, the more compelled I am to talk in terms of 'hope' rather than certainty and the happier I am to say 'I don't know' on the big issues. We don't always need to hold on tightly to certainty in the face of limited (and sometimes conflicting) information.


Drew said...

Hello Ricky,

My name is Drew Smith. I stumbled upon your site just recently and noticed you were going through the book Across the Spectrum. (Great introductory book on these issues btw). I read this book about 5 or so years ago for a theology class I took.

I noticed you stated that Christ emptied his divinity in the kenotic view. It's been a while since I have read that Chapter in particular (we just moved and all of my books are in storage), but there are important variations of the kenotic view that can be addressed. I don't believed Christ emptied his divinity, but emptied himself of the RIGHT to certain characteristics. He never ceased to have them, he laid down his right to use them. I think that is an important distinction and might be able to speak to your issue of what happened after the ascension.

Like you, I am a doubting Thomas as well and my faith journey has taken some abrupt twists and turns. If you would like to chat sometime, I'd be open. It's good to know one is not alone.

Anonymous said...

I just thought I'd add a reason why the ascension thing might not be a problem: human nature is not instantiated in the same way at all times! e.g. it's human nature that, right now being alive, I'm ignorant of certain things, limited in x and y ways. Yet after death at the eschaton things will be very different - if we're glorified in heaven, whilst perhaps not exactly omniscience, our mode of consciousness will presumably be expanded in all kinds of ways. But human nature will not be different - it's just that it's human nature to behave in manner x whilst here on earth, and behave in manner y post-eschaton.

In the same way, the fact the Son had to undergo kenosis between 0 and 33 AD doesn't mean the whole thing is exposed as unnecessary just because he's omniscient or whatever after the ascension. That doesn't mean he's lost his humanity. It's just that it's human nature to be limited - even if you're divine as well! - during earthly life. But post-normal life, it's human nature to be omniscient and all the rest of it if you happen to have a divine nature as well!