Turretin on hypostatic union

These are more of summary notes of certain sections of Turretin, vol. 2.

a composite union?  This language is used both by the ancient fathers (rather unsoundly) and more recently by Reformed fathers.  What the latter meant is that it is “composed rather of number than of parts properly so called” (II: 312) because many things (human and divine natures) numerically exist.  The fact that the fathers speak of a composite person should put to rest the charge that the Reformed Christ is Nestorian.

The Communicatio

The effects of the hypostatical union are twofold: some to the human nature and some to the person.   To the former are ascribed the grace of eminence and habitual graces (graces that are still human qualities but magnified). What is communicated?  The communication of attributes is an effect of the union whereby the properties of both natures are predicated of the person.  It is a real communication with respect properly to the person.  When Turretin speaks of abstract and concrete communications, the terms are to be understood this way:  we are not asking whether there is a communication of a concrete human nature to the person of Christ.  All sides acknowledge this.    The question is whether there is an abstract communication of nature to nature.

If the divine essence is communicated to the human nature (ala Lutheranism and some expressions of Orthodoxy), then the following must hold:

  1. A created thing becomes an uncreated thing.

  2. The human nature is thus immense and finite.

Further, what is proper to one cannot be communicated to another; otherwise it would cease to be proper and become common to that which is communicated (324). Either all of the properties of the divine nature were communicated or none were, since the divine essence is simple.  All of the properties of the Logos must be communicated or none are, since the Logos cannot be divided.  Further, if on account of the union the divine properties are communicated to the flesh, then the properties of the flesh ought in turn to be communicated to the Logos (325).  The union is reciprocal.  However, they are unwilling to admit this.  Further, if the union was made (the natures themselves and their properties remaining unconfounded and entire and distinct, as the Lutherans acknowledge) a communication of properties could not have been made in it.  For what is communicated does not remain proper.

Answering the Anchorites

This project has been a long time in coming.  Anchoretic apologists have been initially successful in picking off Reformed students by using a series of Trinitarian and Christological arguments.  In short, the Reformed students are (supposedly) faced with the implications of what they believe about necessity and how this is (supposedly) at odds with conciliar Christology.   The average Reformed student has no chance whatsoever of answering these challenges, if current seminary models are still valid.  There are two ways of dealing with these challenges:   1) simply pretend to be ignorant.  This really isn’t a bad method.  Most of these Anchorites (most but not all) aren’t that much more philosophically advanced than the Reformed student.  So all that the Reformed guy has to say is, “Hmm…show me.”    More often that not, that works.    Still the challenges must be faced.   The following challenges (and answers thereto) are based from numerous conversations with Anchorites.  They really aren’t based on any definitive literature because there isn’t any definitive literature that truly understands Calvinism.  Maybe that will change in the near future.

Anchorite challenge 1:  Isn’t the Reformed faith Nestorian?   Rushdoony and A.A. Hodge fell into Nestorianism.  The WCF 8.2 says that the person of Christ is divine and human.

Response ~1: Rushdoony doesn’t speak for the Reformed faith.   For over ten years he willingly cut himself off from any communion.    Hodge spoke too loosely and no one at the time really understood what Nestorius was saying, as McGuckin later demonstrates.   As to the Confession, if this is a claim to a Nestorian Christology, it is a very vague and weak claim.  I suppose  What does the Confession mean about the Person being “divine and human?”   It really doesn’t specify.   The most common interpretation is that the person has both divine and human elements to it.   This isn’t that much different from Maximus the Confessor confessing a synthetic Christ (cf. Von Balthasar, The Cosmic Liturgy).

Anchorite Challenge 2:  But doesn’t the Reformed faith deny a communication of attributes?  This means there is no communion between the two natures, and such a denial is a Nestorian separation.

Response ~2:   The Reformed do not deny a communication; we simply deny a 1:1 switch-over between the two natures.   Rather, we assert that the two natures are communicated to the Person.  If the Reformed (and generally Western) position is not held, and the two natures communicate their propria to each other, then they lose any real human or divine identity.   You can assert Nestorian all you want, but from our position all we see of you is Eutychianism.  Sure, this is a Western Christology.  We don’t hide it.  Unfortunately, we do not see anchorites trying to understand what legitimate concerns the Reformed have.  None has said it better than Richard Muller,

The Christological problem follows the [epistemological issue]:  if the human nature of Jesus, as finite, is in capable in itself of comprehending the infinite knowledge of the theologia archetypa[think of the simple divine mind, admitting no real distinctions], then any equation of the theologia unionis [for our present purpose, think the communication of attributes; BH] with archetypal theology must involve some alteration of the human nature of Jesus.  For Jesus to be possessed of an infinite divine wisdom according to his humanity, there would have to be either a communication of divinity to humanity or a transference of divine attributes to Jesus’ humanity within the hypostatic union (Muller, PRRD I: 250]

We must add one more thing:  if the Eutychian communicatio is true, then it’s hard to understand why Christ had to be anointed by the Holy Spirit and receive said gifts.

Anchorite Challenge 3:  You believe in necessity, do you not?  So, on your view is Christ’s human nature determined by his divine nature?

Response ~3:   This is one of those times where you just press them to define their terms.  When I hear the word necessity, I reach for my pistol.  Okay, maybe I don’t, but the point is that necessity has a loaded vocabulary.  Since I am representing Reformed theology, I get to define what necessity means (and doesn’t mean) according to Reformed sources.  Fair?  Reformed Orthodoxy makes a distinction between the necessity of consequence and the necessity of the consequent.   The former is how contingent events fall out in God’s providence.  They will happen, given what events came before them, but not absolutely.   As Muller says, it is a conditional necessity.  “The conditions that create [necessitate?  BH] that circumstance are themselves conditional” (Muller Dictionary, 200).  By contrast, the necessity of the consequent is an absolute necessity (like the opera ad intra).  Therefore, to answer the question, even though I think the question is badly misleading, the human nature follows the divine nature in terms of a necessity of consequence.

But even saying that, I simply have not read in any serious Reformed sources anything like the above charge.

Anchorite Challenge 3b:  How can you speak of natures determining?  Isn’t that Manicheanism?

Response ~3b:  All we mean by that is no nature against the terms that definite that nature, not even God.  This is standard theological fare (cf. Muller, ibid 200).  I remember listening to a Our Life in Christ podcast on the Essence and Energies (#4) and they came very close to positing a schizophrenic God.   They admitted that God’s nature doesn’t change, but then asserted that predestination isn’t true because God relates to us as a person, not a nature.   I suppose on one level God indeed does relate to us as a person, but I shudder to think of a disjunction between person and nature.

Anchorite challenge 3c:  Isn’t that monoenergism, since the human will of Christ doesn’t act freely?

Response ~3c:  No.  Given what we believe about the necessity of the consequence, we allow for freedom.  Let me explain.  Reformed scholasticism speaks of a liberum arbitrium, a freedom of choice.   We believe that the faculty of will (voluntas) is itself free and not prey to the bondage to which human nature fell (Muller 176).  We maintain that the human will is free from external constraint and imposed necessity.  The so-called lack of freedom is the limitation of choice.
How does this relate to Christ’s two wills?  I don’t know, but I think I have demonstrated that that the human nature isn’t “bad” on the Reformed gloss.

Anchorite Challenge 4:  But surely you Reformed speak of a sinful nature, right?

Response ~4: This might be somewhat our fault.  Our humanity has a sin nature accidentally, not substantially.  It’s been easier in discourse to simply say “fallen nature,” or something like that.    Casualty of war, I suppose.

 

If the communicatio is true, then why…

If the communication of attributes/energies from one nature to the other is true, as almost all Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Lutherans hold, and the human nature was fully deified by the divine nature via this communicatio, then why did Jesus need to be anointed by the Holy Spirit?

*Nota bene:  another problem–why isn’t this communicatio a two-thing? No one ever talks about the divine nature being “humanized,” but given the logic there is no reason why not.

The Eucharist and the Mode of Christ’s Flesh

Before High-Church Institutionalism roasted Nicholas Ridley at the stake, he was engaged in a number of eucharistic disputes.  He said, in short, that all sides agreed that Christ was “present” at the Eucharist.  The point, though, was how he was present.   Ridley hit the nail on the head.   All sides, even the most dualistic Baptist, will agree with the “real presence of Christ.”  For the Christian, when is Christ not present?  The point of dispute, though, is the mode of Christ’s presence (this was why the debate between Ligon Duncan and Keith Mathison was so frustrating; Duncan might have been correct that Calvin never said it that way, but still…).

Is Christ present in the bread and wine in such a way that wee are consuming his hemaglobins?  This raises a deeper question:  is Christ consubstantial with our humanity?  Most traditions (correctly) say yes.  Does this consubstantial humanity reside in the consecrated bread and wine?  Note how the High Churchman answers:   supposedly the bread and wine represent, among other things, the human nature of Christ.  Let’s consider what a human nature entails (and keep in mind, when Christ offered the first Eucharist, he did so with his pre-glorified humanity.  This means that whatever the phrase “This is my body” entails, it can only refer to the pre-glorified humanity.   Can a human nature exist outside a person?  Classical Christology, with its doctrine of anhypostasia, says no.   Natures do not exist outside of hypostases.  So, when I see the Lord’s Supper, if the bread and wine represent the humanity of Christ, is the hypostasis of Christ present?  It must be, on this reading, because of the doctrine of an/enhypostasia.  But if this is the case, what of the fact that multiple Suppers are being celebrated at the moment?  Does this mean that there are multiple hypostases of Christ?  The conclusion appears inevitable.  But dear reader, is this not Nestorianism in its most crass form?

On the other hand, if the human nature fully shares in the divine, with a real communication of attributes from the divine to the human, then we lose any real sense of a true humanity of Christ.

A Messy Christology

This is actually a work-in-progress…

1. Take the cappadocian argument against Eunomius:  Eunomius posited that there existed an intermediate energy between Father AND Son AND Holy Spirit.   They correctly responded that within the essence there are no intermediaries.  Yet if we look at the Photian monarchia of the Father–which I accept in its general outline–we see the Father “causing” the Son and Spirit.  Since energia is functional with operation, and cause is an operation, how is this much different than the Eunomian claim?   Fr Sergei Bulgakov beat me to the punch 100 years ago and offered a way out, but his ideas were condemned as heretical.  Bulgakov notes that Photius accepted the same problematic as his opponents, nor could he escape the problem of diarchy:  while the Filioque posits a two-ness with Father-Son on one side and Spirit on the other, Photianism (for lack of a better term), ends up with a similar two-ness, though consequent this time, as opposed to antecedent.

2.  Dr Bruce McCormack illustrates some key gains with Cyril’s Christology. Like Apollinaris he understood that the Logos had to instrumentalize the human nature.  Unlike Apollinaris he avoided truncating that human nature.  The problem, though, as Lutherans were keen to pick up on, is locating the “acting agent.”  Normally Cyril locates the acting agent as the Logos asarkos.  However, when we get to the communicatio idiomata, it seems Cyril is locating the acting agent as the whole Christ, which is an entirely different term.

3.  Orthodox and Lutherans hold to a real communication of attributes.  Good.  Here I part with the Reformed and proudly stand with Lutherans.  There is a problem, though.  St Maximus said the relationship was tantum…quantum.   This means if there is a real communication, it’s a two-way street.  However, if we attribute human attributes to the divine (which is how John Milbank reads Andrew Louth’s reading of Maximus), how can we seriously maintain any doctrine of divine impassibility?

4.  Continuing McCormack’s argument.  We admit that the person of the Logos is the acting agent of the union, denying activity to the human nature; this is consistent with the principle that persons act, not natures.  However, when one communicates this to the modern world, using modern terminology, we find that we are equivocating on the term “human.”  In today’s language humanity means, among other things, a self-activating nature.