Collect of the Day
O LORD, we beseech thee to keep thy Church and household continually in thy true religion; that they who do lean only upon the hope of thy heavenly grace may evermore be defended by thy mighty power; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
Tuesday, January 03, 2017
A Theological and Scripturalist Defense of Gordon H. Clark's Two Person View of the Incarnation
By Charlie J. Ray, M. Div.
This blog article will be the first in a series of posts in which I will investigate the doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ in the view of the ecumenical creeds, the Reformed Confessions, the Holy Scriptures, and Dr. Gordon H. Clark's harmonization of the apparent paradox involved in defining the two natures of Jesus Christ and whether or not the two natures are personal or impersonal. In beginning to do so, I would like to quote from an audio lecture given by Dr. R. C. Sproul where Dr. Sproul is teaching on the doctrine of biblical inerrancy. In that lecture it inevitably came up that Jesus himself viewed the Old Testament as divinely inspired and as the infallible and inerrant word of God. According to Jesus, the Scripture cannot be broken. (John 10:35). But this brings up the doctrine of the Incarnation of Jesus as well as the doctrine of God. If Jesus is a real human being, how can he also be God? Dr. Sproul's lecture deals with just one aspect of this question but he is dealing with it in relation to the issue of omniscience.
According to Dr. Sproul, liberal scholars such as C. H. Dodd acknowledged that Jesus had a high view of Scripture but that Jesus erred in his assertions about Scripture because he was not omniscient in his human nature. The title of the lecture is "Infallibility and Inerrancy" and the audio lecture is posted at Sermon Audio at Infallibility and Inerrancy. Beginning at the 14:13 minute mark and ending at the 17:26 minute mark Dr. Sproul says:
. . . So what I am saying is there are few, very few, if any scholars who would challenge the view that Jesus of Nazareth taught what the church for 2,000 years has been teaching but at the same time these scholars who make that admission turn around and say that Jesus was wrong in his view of Scripture. Now when you hear that at first blush you wonder about the arrogance of such statements from a Christian theologian. To say, "Well, I have a view of Scripture which is a correct one and I am going to have to correct Jesus in his teaching to the church about the nature of Scripture." But they hasten to add that not only was Jesus wrong about his view of Scripture but it is OK that he was wrong because he was influenced by the prevailing view of the primitive, pre-scientific Jewish community of his age and in his human nature he had no possible way of knowing that the current view of Scripture that was popular in his day was erroneous. And they are also quick to point out that if you argue that Jesus was omniscient in his human nature and that he knew everything that that would be a Christological heresy because the Christology of the church historically teaches that omniscience belongs to the divine nature and not to the human nature; and touching his human nature there were things manifestly that Jesus did not know. When pressed about the day and the hour of his return, for example, he says to his disciples that this day has not been revealed, that the angels don't know it and even the Son does not know it but only the Father knows it. [Matthew 24:36]. So Jesus himself gave a limit to his own knowledge and so that he gave us a false view of Scripture is excusable.
In response to that, orthodox scholars say, "Wait a minute. It's not necessary for Jesus to be omniscient to be our redeemer. And we grant that touching his human nature that he did not have the attribute of omniscience." Obviously, the divine nature did. But the human nature didn't. But the broader issue, the deeper issue here is the sinlessness of Christ--because if Christ committed one sin he would be disqualified as our Savior. He couldn't make an atonement for his own sin let alone for ours. And so then the question becomes would it be sinful for a teacher, who claims to teach nothing except that which he has received from God, to teach an error?
Dr. R. C. Sproul. "Infallibility and Inerrancy". Sermon Audio.
I am quoting Dr. Sproul for the simple reason that I am often accused of being unorthodox for simply stating that Jesus as a genuine human being was not omniscient, omnipresent, or omnipotent. The doctrine of the incarnation of Christ can be extremely technical and detailed. Moreover, even conservative theologians are often at odds as to how to properly exegete the Scriptural passages that teach us who Jesus Christ is and what attributes he possessed as both man and as God incarnate. The Christological heresy of which Dr. Sproul is speaking is called the monophysite heresy. That heresy teaches that in the incarnation the two natures of Christ are so intertwined as to be mixed together to form a new nature that is neither completely human nor completely divine. In fact, that is one of the disputes between the Lutherans and the Calvinists in regards to the Lord's Supper. Lutherans contend that after the resurrection the body and blood of Jesus Christ are ubiquitous or omnipresent and are thus present in, with and under the visible appearance of the communion elements of bread and wine. The Calvinist view, however, is that the communion elements remain bread and wine but are only called by the names of what they represent. To say that the body and blood of Christ is omnipresent is to attribute divinity to material objects; and worse, it confuses the human nature of Christ with his divine nature. The traditional doctrine of the church is that the two natures of Christ are hypostatically united but not mixed together or confused. This view is deduced from Scripture and is expounded in the Definition of Chalcedon, 451 A.D.
The Definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D)
Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.
One question I would ask my readers to consider and to reflect upon is the question of how Jesus Christ could be both ignorant of the future and totally omniscient in regards to knowing the future? If Jesus is not omniscient in his human nature but he is omniscient in his divine nature, how could he be one person? Would that not be to confuse the two natures of Christ if we say that he is one person but is both ignorant and omniscient? Or maybe Jesus was schizophrenic and had a lot of confusion in his mind as one person?
Considering these apparent contradictions, therefore, the purpose of this series of blog posts will be to defend Dr. Gordon H. Clark's view of the incarnation and his view that Jesus was two persons and not one person. This seems to be a controversial issue because opponents of Dr. Clark's view have accused him of Nestorianism, a Christological error that says that Jesus Christ was two "separate" persons. Since that is not Dr. Clark's view, I contend that Dr. Clark has not committed the Nestorian heresy and that his view, properly understood, is simply a more refined view of who Jesus was as a genuine human being who was also God incarnate. It is very clear to anyone who has read the most of Dr. Clark's works that he had a very high view of Scripture, the Westminster Standards, and the orthodox view of the Trinity and of the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. In particular, how Dr. Clark defines knowledge and how he defines what a person is has a substantial impact on the conclusions to be drawn later in this study. For Dr. Clark, all knowledge is propositional and propositions must be organized into a logical system that stands in harmony with all the parts. Knowledge, according to Dr. Clark, cannot be a series of isolated aggregates or nuggets that have no relation to the other parts. Also, for Dr. Clark the law of contradiction is basic to how man thinks. Since the Bible teaches that man is God's image, Dr. Clark concludes that God is not irrational or illogical. In fact, Jesus Christ, as the incarnate second person of the Godhead, is the rational and intelligent mind of God or the Logos. According to Dr. Clark, the Word means God is Logic. That is what the Greek word means in John 1:1.
I will continue this discussion tomorrow with part two. Tomorrow I want to discuss the doctrine of the Trinity and how that relates to the Incarnation. Also, Dr. Clark's view of a person as the propositions that he thinks plays a critical part in understanding both the Trinity and the Incarnation. I should also note here that my views have changed. As most people initially are caught off guard by the proposition that Jesus is two persons, I too did not accept this at first. But after reading Dr. Clark carefully over the past several years and after listening to his lectures over and over for several years now I have changed my opinion and it is my studied opinion that most of those who accuse Dr. Clark of the Christological heresy of Nestorianism have not understood Clark nor have they understood the original heresy correctly.
Also, I should note that the Westminster Confession of Faith follows the Definition of Chalcedon 451 A.D.
2. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature, (John 1:1, 14, 1 John 5:20, Phil. 2:6, Gal. 4:4) with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; (Heb. 2:14, 16–17, Heb. 4:15) being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. (Luke 1:27, 31, 35, Gal. 4:4) So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. (Luke 1:35, Col. 2:9, Rom. 9:5, 1 Pet. 3:18, 1 Tim. 3:16) Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. (Rom. 1:3–4, 1 Tim. 2:5).
Westminster Confession of Faith. Chapter VIII. Of Christ the Mediator. To read Part 2 of the Incarnation click here: Incarnation Part 2