Below is a selection from the booklet, Christ the Mediator, by Dr. W. Gary Crampton dealing with the Incarnation. I provided this selection here because (1) it provides a helpful exercise for me as I grapple with the problems entailed in the doctrine of the Incarnation, (2) I am interested in continuing to examine the contours of the solution proposed by the late Gordon Clark, (3) I just feel like fanning the flames, and, (4) I enjoy watching Clark’s critics go bonkers.
Before jumping into Dr. Crampton’s theory of the Incarnation, I would like to preface the following remarks by stressing that I hold Dr. Crampton in the highest esteem. Next to perhaps John Robbins, he has done more to further an understanding of Scripturalism than anyone I know. His book, The Scripturalism of Gordon Clark, is an excellent introduction to the thought of Gordon Clark, and, By Scripture Alone, should be mandatory reading for every seminary student and any Christian interested in defending the centerpiece of the Reformation, sola Scriptura, against contemporary attacks by some of Rome’s most able apologists. His articles which have appeared in the pages of Trinity Review and elsewhere provide a wealth of sound theology found almost nowhere else today. As with virtually anything else from the pen of Dr. Crampton, Christ the Mediator is a smorgasbord of profound and beautiful truths concerning our Savior and Lord Jesus Christ. Hopefully the selection below will provide a teaser prompting readers to explore the rest of Dr. Crampton’s well rounded and penetrating Christology.
Now, the first thing to notice about Crampton’s examination of the Incarnation is that he directly answers some of Clark’s critics (I wonder if any of Clark’s critics here will see themselves in Crampton’s discussion of the inadequacies of the “mainline” handling of the Incarnation represented by Louis Berkof and Augustus Strong). Next, he affirms Clark’s insistence that the solution to the problem of the Incarnation lies in carefully defining key terms, specifically “person.” Crampton quotes Clark approvingly:
Dr. Clark asks some very relevant questions: “If Jesus was not a human person, who or what suffered on the cross? The Second Person [of the Trinity] could not have suffered, for deity is impassable. If then the Second Person could not suffer, could [an impersonal human] nature suffer?”
Dr. Clark continues: “On the contrary, only a person can suffer.” Moreover, he ponders, since the Bible teaches us that Christ possessed a human consciousness, mind, and heart, and will, how can He not be a human person? Is it possible for “a man to be a man without being a human person?” Is the salvation of the elect accomplished “by the alleged death of an impersonal [human] nature?” No, says Clark, “the one who died on the cross was a man, He had or was a soul, He was a human being, a Person.”
While the above quotations from Clark are commendable, there is something rather odd here as well. In that last quotation from Clark, which is found on page 70 of The Incarnation, the sentence is rendered in the monograph as:
“the one who died on the cross was a man, he had or was a soul, he was a human being, a person.”
By identifying the human being or person who died on the cross as He or Person is to identify the Second Person as the one who died on the cross. Yet, that is not what Clark was saying or even implying. For example, Clark writes:
Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34 support this view: “My God, my God, why hast though forsaken me?” Since a rift within the eternal immutable Persons of the Trinity is absolutely impossible, Jesus is here speaking as a man.
For Clark, the man who died on the cross was a human person, not the Second Person in a human nature, whatever that might entail.
Interestingly, Crampton also agrees with John Murray who argued:
It may be that the term “Person” can be given a connotation in our modern context, and applied to Christ’s human nature, without thereby impinging upon the oneness of His divine-human Person. In other words, the term “nature” may be too abstract to express all that belongs to His humanness and the term “Person” is necessary to express the manhood that is truly and properly His.
Oddly, Crampton seems to think that the connotation of the term “Person” that is “necessary to express the manhood that is truly and properly His” is to simply assert that the human nature in Christ is “personal.” Rather than a human person with a human nature joined with a divine person with a divine nature, Dr. Crampton argues that “there is one Lord Jesus Christ, one God-man (i.e., the one Person), who possesses two distinct and inseparable natures, both of which are to be considered ‘personal’ in that He is fully divine and fully human.” Then he avers: “There is nothing impersonal about the divine or the human natures.” (more…)