22 November, 2016

FAQ – Christology: Christ’s mission, two natures, minds and wills

Q. 1. “Does Christ have two wills?”

Christ does have two wills. As both man and God, He has the will of a perfect man and the will of God. A will belongs to each of His two natures. That this is true, Christ Himself expressed in His words in the garden: “not my will, but thy will be done.” The first will was His will as a man, a sorely pressed man; the will of God was His own will as God. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)


Q. 2. “Did not Christ in His human will desire the salvation of all men, even though in His divine will He willed only the salvation of the elect?”

Christ’s submission of His human will to the will of God [especially in His prayer, “not my will, but thy will be done”] refutes the notion that Christ’s human will (desiring the salvation of all) is in contradiction to the will of God (desiring the salvation of the elect only). Elsewhere, Christ announces that He has come to do the will of God His Father, which will is the salvation of the elect only. Christ as Savior has no mission of His own independent of and in contradiction of the will of God who sent Him. For Christ to will the salvation of all, when the will of His Father is the salvation only of the elect would be rebellion on Christ’s part and confusion in the work of salvation. It would amount to heresy: Christ then would have died for all, as a substitute for all. If all are not saved, the death of Christ would have failed, and the implication would be that the salvation of some only depends, not on Christ’s death, but on their own acceptance of that death by their own wills. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)


Q. 3. “Does Christ have two ‘minds’?”

Possessing two, real, distinct natures, Christ had, and has, two minds, even as He has two wills. Human nature consists of a mind and a will, with accompanying emotions. That Christ has two minds, a divine and a human, is evident in His statement in the days of His humiliation that He did not know the day and the hour of His return (Mark 13:32). As God He certainly did know, having decreed it Himself. But as a man, He did not know it. He has a human mind as well as a divine mind. Nor did the divine nature negate the human. The two natures are distinct and distinguishable. One does not encroach upon the other. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)


Q. 4. “How is it that Christ as God, knows all things, even the day and hour of His coming again, but doesn't know the same as man? Christ knows that He is God, and knows that He knows all things as God. Why does He say then that He doesn’t know certain things, as the man, Christ Jesus? As man, is He not able to know what He decreed in eternity as God?”

As God He certainly did know, having decreed it Himself. But as a man, He did not know it. He has a human mind as well as a divine mind.
In the days of His humiliation, on behalf of His humiliation and suffering, He voluntarily put His human nature into the foreground. This culminated in His death. As God He could not die. But He died. His human nature took “precedence” over the divine. This is the grand truth of Philippians 2. As God the eternal Son, He emptied Himself on behalf of His redemptive work in the human nature. “Emptied,” as you know, is the meaning of the bold word that the AV translates as “made Himself of no reputation.”
I add that today, in the time of His exaltation at God’s right hand, and as the man who carries out the counsel of God concerning the end, the man Jesus does know the day and the hour of His return. But He knows it, not only as God, but also as the man whom God has rewarded with such knowledge.
To be sure, deep matters. But matters of revelation and therefore matters into which we may peer in the light of the Bible. Deeply as we look, we are convinced that there are depths that we cannot penetrate. This, the apostle confesses with awe and wonderthe awe and wonder occasioned by the grace of God in Jesus Christat the end of Romans 11. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)


Q. 5. “When Christ prayed, ‘O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me ...’ it sure seems like Christ’s will was contrary to the will of His Father. How is it that Christ prays that the eternal decree of the Father, of which He was not ignorant, should be revoked? How is it that Christ, in His humanity, can will something different than what He himself, and His Father has decreed in eternity?”

The prayer, “Let this cup pass from me,” was not whatsoever rebellion against the will of the Father. That it was not is evident from the conditional phrase attached, “If it be possible”—that is, if and only if it can be in accord with and subject to the will of the Father concerning the salvation of the church. As a man, Christ did not know that there was no other way to fulfill the will of the Father than the cross. Rather than expressing any contradiction of the will of the Father, the petition expresses the dreadful agony of the cross and the obedience of Christ to the will of the Father at all cost: not my will but thine be done. In the petition, Christ did not will something different than what the Father willed. Rather, if the Father could will another way than the cross, that would be the will of the Son in human nature. (Prof. David J. Engelsma)

The Eternal Son of God has His divine will and counsel with the Father and the Son. And, the man, Jesus Christ, the Son of God in the flesh, had a human will according to His human nature. As the Son of God He is eternal, but as the Son of man He has a beginning of days in His conception and birth. Similarly, the Son of God willed eternally, but as the man, Jesus Christ, He willed temporally and righteously, but with its creaturely limitations according to His human nature. The reference to Luke 22 and the wrestlings of Jesus in His suffering in the Garden of Gethsemane in which He learned obedience points to the distinction between what Jesus according to His human nature may have wanted to avoid, if possible, in that moment in time (because of the reality of being forsaken by God), but still in glorious submission to what God had eternally willed (ordained, determined, decreed, foreordained).
Although Jesus is God and man, He never willed according to His human nature what was in disobedience to the divine will of God. He expressed in His agony the desire for the cup of wrath to be removed from Him, but always in subjection to the divine will of God. No conflict or “tension”—a popular word among modern theologians when talking about God’s will and sovereignty and man’s will. Rather, His will as the Son of God according to His divine nature and according to His human nature were unified (in that sense of the word “one”). As a result, we believe that the Person of the Son of God according to His human nature did not demand something which God and so the Son of God according to His divine nature had not eternally decreed and ordained. This we must believe in order to maintain the “unity of His person,” mentioned in the Athanasian Creed, article #36, to which is united His two distinct, but inseparably united natures. (Anon.—PRCA)


Q. 6.
“I'm not sure I agree with the statement, ‘As a man, Christ did not know that there was no other way to fulfil the will of the Father than the cross.’
The above statement suggests that the man Christ Jesus was open to the idea that His Father had two wills and that it was possible that His Father might change the way by which He would satisfy divine justice and atone for the sins of His people.
Jesus knew the OT prophecies concerning Himself and teaches His disciples that He must go unto Jerusalem, and suffer many things of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised again the third day (Matt 16:21). He would have taken them to Zechariah 12:10: ‘And I will pour on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem the Spirit of grace and supplication; then they will look on Me whom they pierced …’ Also Psalm 22 and Isaiah 52-53, where the sacrifice and resurrection of Christ are clearly portrayed.
In light of the above OT prophecies, I can’t see how Christ could not know that there was no other way to fulfil His Father’s will, than by way of the cross, or that He could even entertain the notion that His Father might possibly change the way by which He would satisfy divine justice and save the elect. Christ knew that the OT Scriptures revealed God’s one and only will concerning His sufferings, death and resurrection, and that the will of God was fixed in the eternal counsel before time.
Hebrews 10:7 says, ‘Then said I, Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me,) to do thy will, O God.’
Christ, as man, was not ignorant of His Father’s eternal decree. He came to fulfil what He knew was His Father’s one, unchangeable will.”

The argument and reasoning here are at first glance convincing. The trouble with them is that they have Christ opposing the will of God, which He knew to be the fixed will.
This would be sin on Christ’s part, which is unthinkable.
The starting point of the one who raises this argument is mistaken. Christ could not sin. As a man, He did not therefore know with certainty that God’s will for the salvation of the elect could be realized only by the cross. If it were possiblean important condition in the prayerlet another way be determined. So awful was the cross.
With regard to God’s having made known that Christ was to die the death of the cross, it was a possibility in Christ’s mind that the meaning of the revelation of this will of God was that it might move Christ to request another way, in response to which request God would make known another way. God made known to Jonah and Nineveh that Nineveh would be destroyed in 40 days. Yet when Nineveh repented and prayed for mercy, God did not destroy the city. This does not represent a change in the counsel of God. Rather, the meaning is that God willed the sparing of Nineveh by way of Nineveh’s repenting in response to the warning of its destruction in 40 days (see Jonah 3).
What makes clear that Christ did not by His petition oppose the will of God is His “if it be possible.” This is fundamental submission to the will of God. In this spirit, we may make known to God our petitions and will without sinning.

(Prof. David J. Engelsma)


Q. 7.

A Three-Part Inquiry:

“Jesus, as a man, had two possible ideas concerning what would happen: (A) He is going to die. (B) He is not going to die. He expressed His ‘wish’ (i.e. weak desire) by the conditional phrase ‘If it be possible …’ He did not want to contradict the eternal counsel, but it was more pleasing to Him to avoid the sufferings. Therefore, He had a ‘wish’ which was in submission to the eternal counsel. This ‘wish’ was not sinful even, as we know, He must die. He ‘wished’ to avoid the sufferings, How else do you understand these words: ‘nevertheless not My will, but Thine, be done’ (Luke 22:42)? These words necessarily mean that He, to some degree, wished that.”

“If Christ ‘did not know,’ how then do we explain, ‘For this cause came I into the world ...’ (John 18:37)? … and Christ’s words to Peter, ‘Get thee behind me Satan ...’ when Peter said ‘far be it from thee to have to die’ (Matt. 16:23). Surely this verse tells us that He did know, both as a man and as God?”

Admittedly this is unknown territory to a lot of us, as there are many of differing opinions, and many who have fallen into the ‘Monophysite’ teaching (something which I myself don’t have a lot of knowledge about). I would appreciate your thoughts on this.
The Monophysite heresy taught, as the word itself means, that Jesus had only one natureone mind and one will. It denied that He was and is both fully God and fully human. It seems to me that those who question Jesus’ fully human fear of the cross and request that ‘if possible another way of redemption be chosen’ are guilty of the Monophysite error by denying the fully human nature of Jesus.
As fully human, and a weakened human besides, Christ shrank from the cross because of its dreadful reality as abandonment by God. He did not “wish” to escape death, but He willed to be spared the death of the cross“if it were possible”: only if it were possible. Rather than coolly affirm what He could have known intellectually in that awful hour, we should appreciate how the looming cup of the wrath of God against our sins overwhelmed Him, terrified Him, and nearly killed Him in the “mere” thought of it. This pressed out of Him the anguished cry, “If it be possible,” etc. He was a genuine man, with genuinely human reactions and actions. 
All the logical reasonings in this e-mail impress upon me, not that Jesus somehow disregarded the necessary will of the Father, including His own will as the eternal Son, but how awful must have been the deserts of my sin upon Him that pressed out of Him, who otherwise knew the will of God about the cross, this anguished cry. And if there is something mysterious about His petition, and there is, it is the mystery of the love of Jesus Christ for me that moved Him willingly to the cross, that so terrified Him, to atone for my sins. I am not surprised that He cried out as He did. What surprises me is that Hea real humandid not decide at that hour, “I will not go through with such suffering for such a wretch as David Engelsma.”
(Prof. David J. Engelsma)

No comments:

Post a Comment