Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Svendsen shows some stamina

This is the longest I have ever seen Svendsen stick to a point (which wasn't my point, but at least it is *A* point), so I'll have to give him credit for that. The benefit of him sticking to this point is that he has asked some questions that might actually help to illustrate why he is missing my position.

"My point is that I don't consider NT (historical) exegesis as a field all that significant to the question of dogmatic authority of revelation."

Which is precisely why the charge of Docetism sticks on you. This goes hand in hand with your docetic view of the apostles. You don’t count them as authoritative because, in your view, they’re not “real” people. And it also goes hand in hand with your docetic view of Christ (for which, see below).

As I said on Triablogue, if anything is true, it is that I am anti-Docetistic. I do not imagine the Apostles somehow intending to speak to me, except insofar as they accept that God will use their words through the interpretation of the faithful. With respect to their original intent, I construe it in a very narrowly and historically-bound way, without any expectation that it was meant to be viewed as directed to anything but the bare historical circumstances in front of them. That Scripture written by 1st century Jews still speaks to 21st century Christians is a matter of miracle, not design of the authors.

“Even the opponents of the single-subject Christology of John 1 admit that the single-subject reading of John 1 is legitimate and even likely”

That’s because, contrary to your cursory understanding of these issues, the debate is not about a “single-subject Christology” vs. a “dual-subject Christology.” That’s a debate of your own making. And if you had read my article on Apollinarimonophysites with any degree of caution, you would have caught that. I specifically state in that article: “Both the human nous and the divine nous are bound together in Christ and comprise His person. . . . Both natures comprise *one person*--not a divine person or a human person, but *one* person with a divine nature and a human nature.” The aristotelian terms *nous* / *person* / etc. are used as a mere accommodation. I reject those categories as unbiblical, and it is abundantly evident that they have almost single-handedly caused the ongoing catholic confusion on this issue.

First, if your response isn't directed to dual-subject versus single-subject Christology, then you are already misconstruing the Catholic claim, because "Mother of God" is a term used to show single-subject Christology. If that's not the debate, then you aren't debating with me. But I think you ARE debating with single-subject Christology. You say that nous (which is incidentally of Platonic origin as Apollinaris used it, not Aristotelian) means the same thing as "person" (which isn't true of either Platonic, Aristotelian, or Neoplatonic uses of the term, but accepting your usage for the sake of argument). That would mean that two persons (the divine person and the human person) combine to form a divino-human person with both divine and human properties. That's Nestorianism.

I have no idea what you mean by "mere accommodation" or what "categories" you have in mind. It seems that you have no concept that could sustain any sort of coherent doctrine of the Trinity. If my concepts are inadequate, then what are your alternatives?

Biblically speaking, the separation of these categories simply does not exist. A “person” and his “nature” are biblically inseparable, perhaps even to the point of being indistinguishable. God as a “person” cannot cease to be God in “nature” and still be God. Man as a “person” cannot cease to be man in “nature” and still be man. biblically, no “person” can have a “nature” that does not reflect his “person.”

Your position would then be that the Bible makes the Trinity impossible. Either there aren't three persons (because they all have the same nature, and nature is identical to person) or there are three gods, just as three men with the same nature are not one but three.
Fortunately, this isn't true, because your logical argument for equating nature and person is nonsense. Natures don't reflect persons; persons instantiate natures. Your statements are tautologous; you are simply saying that a person that does not instantiate a nature is not a person with that nature. This is both necessarily and obviously true and has nothing to do with the point.

“The issue that you cited (imputed righteousness) isn't even pertinent to single-subject Christology”

Well then let’s try an issue that is eminently relevant. Heb 2 affirms that Jesus was “made man” and that “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” 1 Tim 2:5 tells us that there is one mediator between man and God, “the man Christ Jesus.” Let’s see how well you do exegeting these texts by answering some questions about them.

Sure thing. I'd love to discuss these passages.

These texts affirm that Jesus was “a man.” Further, they affirm he was *fully* a man “in all things,” not a *partial* man, not *almost* a complete man, and not mere “flesh and blood.” Indeed, the full “manhood” of Jesus as the “last Adam” is assumed in texts such as Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15. Further, they assert that if he did not assume *full* humanity, then he could not have redeemed us fully—to which even the fathers testify: “What is not assumed is not redeemed” (Gregory of Nazianzus). Atonement requires that Jesus is fully man--flesh, intellect, spirit, and whatever else one may care to specify regarding that which makes a man a “man”--not simply God with a "human nature.”

Feel free to clarify if I am misinterpreting, because I am not exactly sure what you have a mind, and I don't want to misunderstand you. It appears that you are saying that Jesus was human not only in the sense of having flesh and blood, but also in the sense of having emotions and reason (although with the caveat of Hebr. 4:15, without sin). What is confusing is your conclusion "not simply God with a 'human nature.'" The definition of human nature "whatever one may care to specify regarding that which makes a man a man, including flesh, intellect, spirit, etc." To say that He has all of these things is nothing other than saying that He has a human nature. Perhaps the subsequent questions will clarify.

It is not "human nature" that mediates for us before God, but "the man, Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5).

"The man" only requires a person with a human nature. It doesn't require that there be a man, Christ Jesus, separate from the Word of God. I entirely agree with you that natures don't mediate; persons do. Also, I'd question your exegesis of the term "mediator" here. In context, it appears to have a "physical" meaning (in the sense of pertaining to physis, nature), affirming that there is a single person acting as a physical mediator between the two natures. You seem to be thinking in terms of Christ talking to Himself ("for us"), and that seems logically implausible. I don't see this passage as pertaining to his intercessory (human) role as high priest.

Atonement is possible only if one who is fully man, through perfect obedience to God, can reverse the sin brought into the world by the “man” (viz., Adam) who, using his human soul, spirit, will, intellect, etc., rebelled against God.

The idea that perfect obedience can save is Pelagian. Not even perfect obedience can earn union with God; that is beyond the capability of human nature, even for Adam, even for Christ. Rather, Adam's sin thwarted deification by grace, which Christ restores by deifying human nature in Himself (John 17:19a "And for their sake I consecrate myself"; cf. Mark 1:9-11) in order to unite all things in Himself (Eph. 1:10, 1 Cor. 15, John 6:39). That is the significance of Christ's obedience; judicial atonement is merely an analogy (including anthropopathisms like wrath; see, e.g., Rom. 5) for Adam's failure to walk the path of deification, temporarily thwarting the purpose of creation that is restored in Christ's defeat of Satan.

I will be posting a full response to your claptrap later. In the meantime, here are some questions that will test not only your exegetical abilities but also the biblical consistency of your own view:

If it is "claptrap," I'm sure you will have no trouble showing it. However, I suspect that this response may point out that it was not.

1. Do you believe Jesus was fully human; that is to say, fully a man? Was he 100% man?

Yes, He was a person possessing the full human nature.

2. Was there any part of humanity that was not “shared” by Jesus via the incarnation? In other words, if one attribute of humanity is “personhood” (and whatever that entails on your view), did Jesus assume humanity on that level?

"Personhood" is not an attribute of humanity by definition. "Personhood" refers to concrete individual existence of any rational nature. Existence is not an attribute of nature for any nature except the divine nature. The divine nature necessarily exists; nothing else does.

3. If the answer #2a is yes (and/or 2b no), what is included in your definition of “person” that was unimpacted by sin and does not therefore need to be redeemed in the atonement?

This is what I mean by confusing "nature" with "person." Persons are only impacted by personal sin; the "except sin" qualification in Hebr. 4 means that Christ has no personal contact with sin. "Original sin" refers to being born in a condition of privation, absent God's grace, which is solely situational and accidental, not an effect of sin on the nature per se, so Christ does not have this property either. Of the effects of sin on the human nature, Christ has all of those weaknesses that do not depend on the personal exercise of any faculties, so that He is vulnerable to death, physical weakness, ignorance, etc., but not concupiscence, disordered desires or passions, etc. All faculties of the human nature are deified in Christ, including the Body (deified by the Resurrection) and the spirit.

4. If your answer to #3 includes nothing, then what is it that redeems those inclusions and how exactly are they redeemed?
5. If your answer to #3 includes anything at all, then explain how it was unimpacted by sin and exempt from the need for redemption.

Based on my answer to #3, these questions involve a category error. Person isn't an attribute of nature, so personal redemption is not a matter of the nature being redeemed. All faculties of nature are redeemed, but person is not a faculty of nature.

6. Where is sin conceived? In your feet? Or in your thoughts, your intellect, your soul? Something else?

Sin is an act of the will (and particularly, the gnomic mode of exercising the will).

7. On your view, which phrase below is most accurate AND best avoids redundancy when referring to a man?
a. A human person with a human nature
b. A human person (human nature is assumed)
c. A person with a human nature
d. Other?

(b). As a referent to "person," modifiers refer to the nature by virtue of which the person exists (sometimes called the "proper nature."). If there is a person who draws his existence from being human, then it is perfectly correct to simply say that it is a "human person."

8. have you ever referred to a human being as "a human person with a human nature"? If not, why not?

No. "Human person" assumes this.

9. Is there a categorical difference in your concept of “personhood” when it refers to human as opposed to when it refers to divine? If so, what is that difference? If not, then what real objection do you have with the phrase "person with a divine nature?" Is "divine person" substantially different on your view from "person with a divine nature"? If so, in what way exactly?

Yes. Divine nature is absolutely simple, meaning there is no existence/essence composition (to use Augustine's term, "To be ... is to be a person"). Divine nature is necessarily existent, and we know by revelation that this necessary existence involves existing tri-personally. Divine persons, therefore, necessarily exist. Human persons, whose existence stems from instantiating the human nature, or angelic persons, whose existence stems from instantiating their spiritual natures, do not exist necessarily. "Divine person" and "person with a divine nature" are not different; they are both persons that must necessarily exist and necessarily exist as God.

What you were just describing wouldn't even qualify as Biblical exegesis from my perspective”

And why should your perspective even count, since you are clueless about what biblical exegesis is?

That's begging the question. You need an argument at this point for your view of what biblical exegesis is, since our opinions differ.

“The works I've cited are the same ones you find in any bibliography of any scholar of any persuasion.”

Not exactly. The patristic scholars you cite has at least read the primary sources. It is abundantly clear you have not.

I meant the list of references that I gave. Those are the same works that anyone would have to deal with one way or the other. They are recognized as expert works in the field.

“I certainly don't believe that formal qualifications actually mean much of anything. Svendsen was the one who brought up my supposed lack of qualifications (and Hays piled on).

Poppycock! You were the one who raised the issue that my training included nothing in patristics, and used that as some sort of reason not to take my views seriously. I simply responded to something you wrote not only recently but dozens of times in the past on various boards. You either have a very short memory, or you are a liar.

... which is a tu quoque response of the fallacious sort. I challenged your qualifications; I did not present my qualifications as any part of my basis for challenging your qualifications. You switched the issue from your qualifications to my qualifications, which was completely irrelevant to your own. It was only in response to the irrelevant question of my qualifications that I raised my own.