Call To Die

Then [Jesus] said to them all, "If anyone wants to come with Me, he must deny himself, take up his cross daily, and follow Me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life because of Me will save it. (Luke 9:23-24, HCSB)

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Follower of Christ, husband of Abby, member of Kosmosdale Baptist Church, and tutor/staff member at Sayers Classical Academy.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

True God and True Man: Reflections on the Hypostatic Union, Part 2

One Nature?

In order to be faithful to the doctrine of the hypostatic union (and thus, I would argue, faithful to Christ Himself), one CANNOT speak of Jesus as if He has only one nature following the Incarnation: as if He were divine without being fully human (body and soul) or as if He has a nature that is some kind of synthesis between divinity and humanity. The idea that Christ, following the Incarnation, has one nature is the heresy called "monophysitism" (from mono, meaning "one," and phusis, meaning "nature").

Monophysitism and Gospel Matters

Monophysitism is a serious heresy for a number of reasons:

1. It misrepresents the clear biblical record. While there are Bible passages that speak of Christ as God (for example, Titus 2:13) and passages that speak of Christ as Man (for example, 1 Timothy 2:5). There are no passages that speak of Christ of having a nature that  is some kind of hybrid.

2. It misrepresents the divine nature of Christ. In the orthodox view, the divine Word takes on a human nature. The divine nature does not become human in the sense of changing or being synthesized into something that it was not. Such an activity (if possible) would imply a change in God's nature. God, however, is immutable (unchangeable), as the Bible declares in passages such as Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17.

3. It misrepresents the human nature of Christ. Scripture declares in Hebrews 2:17 that Jesus was "made like His brethren in every respect." From several passages (including Heb 4:15; 7:26; 1 Peter 2:22) we know that the humanity of Christ did not include sin. But in every respect necessary for Christ to experience a true (yet sinless) humanity, Jesus was just like us. This would not be the case if His human soul was replaced by a divine soul or if His soul was some sort of human/divine mixture.

4. It undermines the gospel:

a.   The good news of salvation is based on the immutable nature of God. As Scripture declares in Malachi 3:6, “Because I–the LORD–do not change, therefore you–the sons of Jacob–are not consumed.” By asserting change in the divine nature, monophysitism erodes the basis of our hope for salvation. If God can change as to His very nature, how can we be sure that He will not change His mind concerning the salvation of His elect?
b.   The good news of salvation is based on the true, full humanity of Christ. As Scripture declares in Hebrews 2:17, "Therefore, [Christ] had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people" (NASB emphasis added). Christ our great high priest had to become like us and He had to be chosen out from among men (Heb 5:1). One reason that "it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins" (Heb 10:4) is because these animals are fundamentally NOT like us, and so they are improper as substitutes. But in the monophysite view, Jesus in His humanity is fundamentally NOT like us in that He lacks a human soul. As Gregory of Nazianzus righly asserted:

If anyone has put his trust in [Christ] as a Man without a [fully] human mind, he is really bereft of mind, and quite unworthy of salvation. For that which He has not assumed He has not healed.
Christ HAD to take on a fully human nature, body and soul (with a mind) in order to be a substitute for human beings: making propitiation, bearing our penalty for sins that we have committed in body and soul, and bringing healing to our souls (and eventually to our bodies as well, in the resurrection).

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