Thursday, April 19, 2012

Article 2

Today's reflection on the 2 of the 39 Articles of Religion focuses on Article 2:

II. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man
The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, war crucified, dead and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for all actual sins of men.

This is, for the most part, classic Dyophysite doctrine which comes out of the Ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in AD 451. This is as opposed to Monophysite and Miaphysite churches. This is extremely obscure Churchspeak for asking and answering the question, "What sort of nature or natures did Jesus Christ have as a person?"

In other words, did Jesus have a divine nature, being the Son of God, or did Jesus have a human nature, being the Son of Man? Or, conversely, did Jesus have two natures, a divine nature and a human nature, or did Jesus have one nature that was some sort of amalgam of the Divine and Human? That seems to be a very esoteric argument to the modern mind. One might say, "Well...what difference does it make?"

It does actually make a difference in terms of how we understand God and our salvation. Monophysites are those people that believe Jesus only had a Divine Nature (Like the Armenian Orthodox) and Miaphysites (Oriental Orthodox, Copts, etc.) believed that Jesus had only one nature that was a weird mixture of divine and human natures. Neither of these really do in terms of having a coherent doctrine of salvation. 

Dyophysites, which comprise most of Christianity (Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, and many Protestants) follow the Chalcedonian definition of Christ's nature, in that Christ has both a divine nature and a human nature that are both co-existent but do not merge with each other. In such way, Jesus is fully human but also fully divine. If Jesus had only one human nature, then he would not have had a divine nature, thus being a man like any other man that could not be the bridge connecting God the Father and fallen, sinful humans. Likewise, if he had only a divine nature, he would be only God that put on humanity like a fake plastic mask but was in no way really human, and thus could not be tempted or likewise be the bridge the connects humanity and God the Father. Only having two fully distinct natures could Jesus really be incarnate God, fully human and fully divine. 

Miaphysites make an interesting case because they can claim Jesus is both human and divine with only one nature, having attributes of both. In fact, they argue the West creates a Jesus who has a largely split personality disorder. But what Miaphysites create is an amalgam that is neither God nor man at all. It is almost like they see Jesus as a demi-god, not unlike the classic Roman hero Hercules of mythology who had a mother who was human but a divine father. And as such, Hercules was neither one not the other. He was a new breed unto himself, a demi-god if you will. 

But Anglicanism is very clear on the doctrine of the Incarnation: God became man. He did not cease to be God nor did he cease to be human. He had to be tempted as we are, and thus had to have human nature. He also have to be divine to bridge the gap. If, as the Patrisitic fathers of the early church said, "If Jesus is not fully God and fully human, we are not fully saved." This concept is central to understanding what God was up to with atonement and the salvation plan for all humans: God in Jesus had to be both, not one or the other. 

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