ReKnewing Christology—Part 1

kay-eneim-permissionReaders here know how fond we are of Greg Boyd. We appreciate his insight and passion, his conviction to make Christ the center and goal of faith, and his heart for marginalized people. And of course we, like Greg, are open theists. We have a lot in common.

Readers might remember that last spring we challenged claims Greg made about the Cross constituting an essential break in the triune relations between the Father, Son and Spirit. Greg’s Christology had become not only not Orthodox or Chalcedonian (which is hardly by itself an immediate concern to Protestants today) but more interestingly in Greg’s case a definite departure from positions and conclusions he argued for in his doctoral work Trinity & Process about which we’ve shared.

Presently Greg is sharing a series of posts (three posts thus far: 1 here, 2 here, and 3 here) that explore his and ReKnew’s theological commitments regarding the Incarnation. Greg’s renewed interest in the Incarnation, his kenoticism, his departure from core commitments made in Trinity & Process, his widespread influence upon readers and — well — the fact that we’re such fans all are reasons why we wanted to engage his recent posts and, hopefully, convince folks to think long and hard about his views on the Incarnation before climbing aboard.

Chalcedonian Christology
In this post Dwayne and I would like to clarify what is involved in the “two minds” view of the Incarnation. A cup of coffee with Fr Rick at St. George’s in St. Paul might have saved Greg the embarrassment of having published so badly misunderstood an account of what the two minds view is. In this post we wanted to set the record straight. Folks ought to know that Greg’s description of the two minds view is inaccurate — too inaccurate to overlook.

In his third post Greg differentiates between the Chalcedonian Creed (451 AD) and ways theologians have understood and applied this Creed. The Council of Chalcedon was the fourth ecumenical council called primarily to address debates over the nature of Christ’s humanity and the relationship between the humanity and divinity of the Son. Their conclusion? The well-known phrase: One person, two natures (divine and human) “unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, and inseparably” united in one person “without the distinction of natures being taken away by the union but rather the property of each nature being preserved….”

Here we’d like to point out that Greg simply misunderstands the two minds view. How’s he understand it? He explains:

“This view holds that Jesus walked the earth with both the all-knowing mind of God and the limited knowledge of a human being…[T]his tradition concludes, Jesus somehow simultaneously possessed ‘two minds’: a divine omniscient mind and a human finite mind.”

And also:

“It requires us to imagine that Jesus was aware of what was happening with every molecule on every planet in the universe even while he was a zygote in the womb of Mary. And it requires that we imagine this while also affirming that, as a fully human zygote, Jesus was completely devoid of any awareness.”

id-10096389This isn’t the two minds view at all. But for the moment notice that for Greg, Jesus is all there is to the Logos. Incarnation just means the eternal Son, the Father’s personal Logos, is reduced without remainder to the constraints of a human, embodied context. And this embodied space — and only this space — constitutes the sum total of the Divine Logos during his earthly career. The logic is simple: Jesus is God. Jesus isn’t omniscient or universally present. Therefore being omniscient and universally present isn’t necessary to being God. Simple. But there’s more. Since Jesus as a zygote in Mary’s womb is also the sum total of the Divine Logos post-Incarnation, we can also dismiss (along with omniscience and omnipresence) something Greg doesn’t explicitly mention, namely, that personal consciousness  is essential to divine being. We know this (following Greg’s logic) because zygotes aren’t remotely conscious or personally related subjects and because the zygote in Mary’s womb is the Incarnate Logos (and thus divine), and because this zygote is all there is to the Logos. Therefore, being divine can’t necessarily involve being or doing anything a zygote is not being or doing. As Greg explains:

“I would rather argue that the Son of God set aside the exercise of his omniscience in order to become a human, for, I would argue, being non-omniscient is part of what it means to be human. I would argue the same for any other divine attributes that contradict the meaning of ‘human’.” (emphasis ours)

There you have it. Whatever is essential to being divine must be realizable within and as the limits of finite, created human being. Greg thus holds that the human and divine experiences of the Logos are exhaustively coterminous with the experience of Jesus (from his being a zygote onward). Divine uncreated being is therefore neither necessarily all-knowing, nor all-present, nor need it be a subject of a personally related experience at all (as zygotes are not instances of personal consciousness).

What of the two minds view? Well, Greg explains it in terms of his own view of the Incarnation. If there are two minds (divine and human), they have to be minds coterminous with the state of Jesus’ human consciousness. But the human consciousness of Jesus was clearly not omniscient. Hence, Jesus doesn’t have two minds, one finite and limited and one divine and infinite. (Actually, as a zygote, on Greg’s view, the Incarnate Logos doesn’t even have one mind, but never mind that.)

None of this is Chalcedonian two minds Christology. The two minds view does not hold that the human consciousness of Jesus (or Jesus as a zygote) was both omniscient and not omniscient. The two minds view in fact agrees that Jesus’ finite embodied human nature was neither everywhere present nor omniscient. But it doesn’t follow from this that the personal experience of the Logos was reduced to his human experience as Jesus. Rather, there is more to the Logos than the human experience we call Jesus, and it is this Logos who is the personal subject of both a fully divine and a fully human experience. Thus the two minds view is that the personal experience of the Logos is not coterminous with or reducible to his human experience. True, the Logos is truly present as incarnate human being. But “truly” present here need not mean “merely” present. There is more to the Logos post-Incarnation than Jesus.

Don’t believe us without checking things out for yourself. There are several Orthodox we could call upon, but space limits us to one. Athanasius (in On the Incarnation) will do:

“The Word was not hedged in by his body, nor did his presence in the body prevent his being present elsewhere as well. When he moved his body he did not cease also to direct the universe by his mind and might. No. The marvelous truth is, that being the Word, so far from being himself contained by anything, he actually contained all things himself…

“As with the whole, so also is it with the part. Existing in a human body, to which he himself gives life, he is still source of life to all the universe, present in every part of it, yet outside the whole; and he is revealed both through the works of his body and through his activity in the world. It is, indeed, the function of soul to behold things that are outside the body, but it cannot energize or move them. A man cannot transport things from one place to another, for instance, merely by thinking about them; nor can you or I move the sun and the stars just by sitting at home and looking at them. With the Word of God in his human nature, however, it was otherwise. His body was for him not a limitation, but an instrument, so that he was both in it and in all things, and outside all things, resting in the Father alone. At one and the same time—this is the wonder—as man he was living a human life, and as Word he was sustaining the life of the universe, and as Son he was in constant union with the Father…”

imagesThis, friends, is Chalcedonian two minds Christology. It is not the human which possesses two minds. It is the contingent human as finite mind which is possessed by the Logos in addition to his ever-abiding and essential divine experience. God’s eternal Logos thus possesses two minds, one divine (with its divine experience as the infinite, abiding image and creative Word/Logos of the Father sustaining the cosmos including Jesus’ own embodied experience) and one human (with its human experience as the finite Jesus). One person — two natures.

Greg misunderstands the historical position because he equates “mind” with “person” (one mind = one person; two minds = two persons, etc.) and takes Jesus to constitute the sum total of the person of the Logos. But the Orthodox relate “mind” with “nature.” So naturally for the Orthodox the Logos is one person with two natures, one divine and one human, each nature possessing its respective mind and will, irrevocably united in the one person of the Logos without confusion, etc. But confusing the two is precisely what Greg does.

We can’t think of an issue that commits one to take a stand on divine transcendence more than the issue of the Incarnation of God’s Son. Greg’s view, like all kenotic views, has no room for transcendence. For Greg there cannot be more to the Logos than there is to the embodied, finite Jesus. There can be no transcendent experience of a divine nature belonging to the person of the Logos outside the four walls of Jesus’ human experience. This is evident in Greg wondering how Jesus can run the universe from Mary’s womb. We wouldn’t have the slightest idea how that could be. But that’s not the two minds view. Rather, as Athanasius explains, it is the Logos who runs Mary’s womb from the universe, not the other way around.

More to come.

(Picture of Mary and Child.)

Christ & Horrors—Part 1

9780521686006_p0_v1_s260x420Top three books read in 2013? The top read has to be David Bentley Hart’s The Experience of God: Being, Consciousness, Bliss. The second and third are Marilyn McCord Adams’ Christ and Horrors: The Coherence of Christology and John Walton’s The Lost World of Genesis One: Ancient Cosmology and the Origins Debate. I read McCord last summer and I’m starting this year off re-reading her. The first time though I was just a listener. This time through I want to move slower and take notes as I go an And I’d like as occasion permits to post relative passages from the book. So they’ll pop up occasionally as Christ & Horros—Part 1, 2, etc.

Her thesis? I’ll let her describe it:

“My topic is Christology; my thesis is the coherence of Christology; my theme, Christ as the One in Whom all things hold together. Metaphysically, Christ is the center both of Godhead and cosmos. Existentially, Christ is the integrator of individual positive personal meaning; psychologically, our inner teacher; body-politically, the organizer of Godward community. Christ saves us by virtue of being real and really present.”

She poses the human predicament:

“Western theological majority reports—as asserted in Augustine and refined by Anselm and later medieval western school theologians as well as (and perhaps most emphatically) by Protestant reformers—and late twentieth-century Anglo-American philosophy of religion alike root human non-optimality problems in sin, construed as the rebellion of relatively competent agents against God, and identify our psycho-spiritual disarray, our estrangement from God, our vulnerability to a generally hostile environment, and the certainty of death as natural and/or punitive consequences of the sin of free creatures.”

No doubt (she admits), sin is a problem. However, in the book she employs a different category, that of “horror” of which “sin is a severe symptom and disastrous consequence.”

“I begin with the exitentialists’ category of personal meaning, and define “horrors” as “evils the participation in (the doing or suffering of) which constitutes prima facie reason to doubt whether the participant’s life could (given their inclusion in it) have positive meaning for him/her on the whole.”

And again:

“Participation in horrors furnishes reason to doubt whether the participant’s life can be worth living, because it engulfs the positive value of his/her life and penetrates into his/her meaning-making structures seemingly to defeat and degrade his/her value as a person….At the heart of the horrendous, what makes horrors so pernicious, is their life-ruining potential, their power prima facie to degrade the individual by destroying the possibility of positive personal meaning.”

I very much like the soteriological shift in focus from sin to horror, from acts that violate expressed commands to the degradation of personal meaning-making capacities. I think this is a right and beneficial move because sin (construed as “acts”) is itself motivated by a more fundamental misidentification of the self. This shift to the existentialist category of personal meaning opens a way to think soteriologically which, for me, confirms an already present shift motivated several years ago by exposure to Greg Boyd’s Trinity & Process and aspects of the Orthodox vision of God.