Saturday, September 15, 2018
Part Three - Divine Simplicity, The Incarnation And Why The Incarnation Of The Son Of God Took Place
Colossians 2:9 "For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form."
In our last post, we considered the following subjects that occupied our reflections upon Christ's appearances in the Old Testament:
1. The Old Testament's overall revelation of the Son of God.
2. We also spent some time considering what light is shed upon the Son's pre-existence and deity by the doctrine of divine simplicity.
3. As we studied these important subjects, we found out how the doctrine of Divine simplicity enables us to talk meaningfully of God's revelation of Himself in our world.
For readers wanting to review the last post, simply click on the following link here:
The state of the Son in relationship to Old Testament history was that as the Second Person of the Trinity before the incarnation. Anytime the Bible uses titles such as "The Angel of the Lord" or "The Word", such references point to the Son before His incarnation. The title "Son" speaks specifically to His pre-existence in eternity with the Father and Holy Spirit as One God. In today's post, we want to focus attention upon the coming of the Son of God into our world. By exploring the Son's incarnation as Jesus of Nazareth, we will see how this event relates to Him retaining a Divine nature that is described by the doctrine of Divine simplicity.
The Doctrine Of The Incarnation: Expounding On How God the Son Came Into Our World And What Took Place When He Came To Be A Man
Theologian Wayne Grudem has written the following heading to define the incarnation on page 554 of his major work, "Systematic Theology": "deity and humanity in One Person of Christ". When we speak of the "incarnation" or "enmanning" of God the Son as Jesus of Nazareth, we refer to that act in which He, as a Divine Person, came into this world to partake of the additional experience of what it was like to be a man. The event itself entailed two main miracles:
1. The virginal conception and birth through Mary, which explains how He came.
2. The hypostatic union. This miracle involved the joining of a truly human nature unto His Personhood. As the Divine Son of God, He already bore all the properties associated with true deity. The hypostatic union describes "what took place" in the incarnation, namely, He assuming unto Himself a second, truly human nature, with all of its attendant properties.
The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 does a fine job of summarizing what occurred in the incarnation of the Son of God:
"In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin."
Why The Incarnation Of The Son Of God?
The incarnation describes what took place when the Person of the Son of God united true humanity and undiminished deity within Himself as a Divine Person. New Testament texts such as Matthew 1:20-23; Luke 1:35; John 1:1-14; Philippians 2:5-11; Colossians 1:13-16; 2:9; 1 Timothy 3:15-16 and Hebrews 2:11-14 testify to this point. One may ask what would prompt the Divine Person of the Son to so united to His Person a human nature? Moreover, does the doctrine of Divine simplicity have any compatibility to the doctrine of the incarnation?
Three major thinkers in the history of the church aid us in answering this question: Athanasius, Anselm of Canterbury and Thomas Aquinas. I mention these three thinkers due to their consistent adherence to the doctrine of Divine simplicity, which they saw as shedding light on the Bible's teaching about the God of the Bible, and the incarnation. In the quotes below, I will mention how each of these writers answer the question of: "why the incarnation", followed by a reference to what they affirm about the doctrine of Divine simplicity. These references will show the reader how histories greatest Christian thinkers saw no conflict between the Doctrine of Divine Simplicity and The Incarnation.
First, Athansius of the fifth century, explains why the Son became incarnate in his work, "On The Incarnation":
"The Word, then, visited that earth in which He was yet always present ; and saw all these evils. He takes a body of our Nature, and that of a spotless Virgin, in whose womb He makes it His own, wherein to reveal Himself, conquer death, and restore life."
Athanasius expresses his belief in the Divine simplicity of the Divine nature of God, shared by the Triune Persons in his work - "On The Trinity", by the following statement: "nor is the Trinity a blend of creative and created being." As touching the deity of the Son, we can say similar remarks as expressed by Athanasius.
Secondly, the 11th century theologian Anselm wrote a major work on the incarnation entitled: "why God became man", expressing why he thinks Christ became incarnate in terms of achieving God's original purposes in creating humanity, which fell into sin:
"that this purpose could not be carried into effect unless the human race were delivered by their Creator himself?"
As Athanasius did, Anselm too subscribed to the doctrine of Divine simplicity in chapter 12 of his classic work on the doctrine of God: "The Proslogion" - "But, clearly, whatever You are You are through Yourself and not through another."
No other writer affirmed the doctrine of Divine Simplicity more extensively than did Thomas Aquinas. Aquinas, in his massive work: "Summa Theologicae" offers his answer as to why the Son became incarnate in Part 3, Question 1, Article 1, of the same work:
"Hence it belongs to the essence of the highest good to communicate itself in the highest manner to the creature, and this is brought about chiefly by "His so joining created nature to Himself that one Person is made up of these three—the Word, a soul and flesh," as Augustine says (De Trin. xiii). Hence it is manifest that it was fitting that God should become incarnate."
Aquinas devotes a long section near the beginning of "Summa Theologicae to the doctrine of Divine Simplicty. The fact we find him affirming both doctrines in the same work demonstrates how he saw no issue in affirming Divine Simplicity and the incarnation of the Son of God.
Applications And Closing Thoughts For Today
We aimed today to consider the meaning of the incarnation of the Son of God, the reason for it and how the incarnation is compatible with the doctrine of Divine Simplicity. We referenced key New Testament passages and saw how great Christian thinkers handled these issues. So why are these considerations important to us? Let me suggest three pastoral suggestions:
1. If we can come to know the Lord Jesus Christ on a deeper level, ought we not love Him enough to think harder about Him (see 2 Peter 3:18)?
2. We ought to see how magnificent Christ is by virtue of what He came to reveal to us about God and our own humanity. He, as truly God, makes God accessible to us by way of the true humanity which he assumed and still retains for our sake. This ought to bring comfort to the Christian, since Christ, as man, can empathize with us, while as God, He is not caught off guard by what is going on in our lives (see 1 Timothy 2:5; 1 John 2:1-2).
3. By exploring the thoughts of others in Christian history, we can discover the rich faith of which we're a part. We can praise God for how various questions we find ourselves asking today were addressed many centuries ago.