Monday, 29 September 2008

Two Natures, One Person and the Non-Competitive Divine Nature

Christianity claims that, in Jesus, a divine person has assumed a human life without diminution of either divine or human natures, and that this assumed person is without human personhood (ontologically speaking), and is only a single divine person. (Two natures, one person.)

A few observations will, I hope, help. First, it is best not to think of God's nature as defined, like ours, as exclusive of other kinds. That is, God is transcendent, beyond simple contrasts, because, remember, God is not in an ontologically competitive relationship with us. God is, as Phillip reminded us, just not on another plane of being; God is somehow else. (God is not a being, literally does not have being as such.) Thus, because of God's non-competitive transcendence God can share God's goodness and not be diminished, and can unite without diminution (of either God or human being). This also means that God does not have to be more like us to be united with us; God can be God, totally other than us and still be intimately united with us. And this is part of God's creativeness: in creating God comes near and establishes difference and existence. (Indeed, they are co-terminus.) Of course, this is all paralleled in the doctrine of the Trinity. The Father as fount of Godhead, begets a Son who is entirely other than the Father, but who is utterly united in love with the Father. The more the Father is Father the more the Son is Son, 'naturally' related but distinct.

Apply this to the doctrine of the Incarnation. The Son can assume a human nature without change because the Son's nature is not defined by exclusion from others. (Because of non-competitiveness) That is, the Word is not restricted by its own nature, because divine nature is not defined over-and-against other kinds. This is not speculation but entirely soteriological: this is our salvation, and the doctrines are partly the end result of working backwards from this salvation won in Christ.

[If you are interested in the picture, see here.]

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