Choosing Paradox – Part Two
In part one of my review of James Anderson’s Paradox in Christian Theology we examined one of the central premises in the book and that trinitarian orthodoxy entails paradox. According to Anderson orthodoxy requires that we think of God as being in some sense both one person and three persons. Anything less it turns out is to cross over into heterodoxy. As a result, Anderson simply chooses a contradictory conception of the Trinity and asserts that only by maintaining a strict numerical identity between the unity and plurality of the Godhead can any theory remain within the bounds of orthodoxy. Therefore, the idea of a generic unity obtaining between persons of the Godhead, sometimes called the “social trinitarian” view, and a position advanced by theologians as diverse as Gordon Clark, Richard Swinburne, Thomas Morris and others, is dismissed as heterodox despite providing a biblical, rational, and non-contradictory solution to the problem of the Trinity. As we examined in part one, only a very stilted and narrow reading of history would require the sort of numeric unity advocated by Anderson. Besides, the strictures on orthodoxy that Anderson requires from his reading of history are not has hard and fast as he suggests. As Gordon Clark observed:
The present writer has the impression that some theologians count species, that some have no clear notion of numerical unity, that some therefore oscillate, and that many are confused. This judgment is justified because hardly any of them study the theories of individuation. (The Trinity, 103)
Therefore, Anderson’s insistence on a contradictory understanding of the Trinity, where God is said to be simultaneously one person and three persons, is not a requirement of orthodoxy at all, and, in fact, is a position that orthodoxy positively prohibits. As previously mentioned, I think many Christians would be shocked to learn that according to Anderson Van Til’s well known assertion that “the whole Godhead, is one person” is not only acceptable, but is perfectly in line with Athanasian orthodoxy. In short, when it comes to the Trinity and the argument that orthodoxy requires believing in paradox we judge Anderson’s claims to be a failure.
The next doctrine on the chopping block, and one that Anderson believes exemplifies one of the central paradoxes of the Christian faith, is the Incarnation. Here the problems entailed in the doctrine of the Trinity are considerably magnified. Concerning the definition of Chalcedon where Jesus Christ is said to be one person with two natures Anderson puts the problem this way:
If the doctrine of the Trinity is inherently paradoxical . . . then the doctrine of the Incarnation necessarily inherits that paradoxicality. Here is the argument: if the Son assumed a human nature, and the Son is God, then God assumed a human nature; but if the Father did not assume a human nature, and the Father is God, then God did *not* assume a human nature; therefore, God both did and did not assume a human nature. (79,80)
I would agree, if the Trinity entails a paradox then any theory of the Incarnation would similarly entail a paradox as well. On the other hand, I’m hard pressed to see how if one begins with a non-paradoxical, or, rather, a non-contradictory conception of the Trinity, that it would somehow necessitate a contradictory understanding of the Incarnation. Anderson agrees and in a footnote states:
It might be objected that this presupposes an Augustinian model of the Trinity, whereas alternative models (e.g., social trinitarianism) would render the argument obviously invalid . . . This argument is correct. However . . . my conclusions . . . do not stand or fall on this point.
As we will see the difficulties that obtain in the traditional formulation of the Incarnation where Jesus Christ is said to be one person with two natures needs to be faced regardless if one begins with the untenable and admittedly contradictory notion of numerical identity that Anderson prefers, or the non-contradictory conception of generic unity along with a clear and unambiguous theory of individuation that we find in, say, Gordon Clark. That’s because, the difficulty of the Incarnation is its difficulty.
To take but one of many examples of a paradoxical implication derived from Chalcedonian orthodoxy, Anderson provides the following:
(K1) Christ did not know1 every fact (by virtue of his humanity).
(K2) Christ did know2 every fact (by virtue of his divinity). (297)
Clearly, to say that Christ both knows and does not know every fact entails a contradiction and we know from Scripture that Jesus was ignorant of some things otherwise he could not grow in wisdom (Luke 2:40) neither did he know the time and day of his return (Matthew 24:36). Whereas, the omniscient Second Person of the Trinity cannot grow in wisdom nor can He be ignorant of anything without ceasing to be God. Consequently, how can one person be ignorant of some things yet be ignorant of nothing? To get around this and other sticky problems concerning the person of Christ, Anderson constructs an elaborate system in order to minimize the force of maintaining such a blatant contradiction concerning the person of Jesus Christ. While there are many aspects to Anderson’s detailed explanation that would be interesting to examine, like his use of Alvin Plantinga’s epistemological scheme of warrant in order to justify as “rational” the belief in inherently contradictory doctrines that, we are told, are found throughout the teachings of Scripture, I want to briefly focus on just one. According to Anderson what makes the above example a paradox and not a contradiction is due to an “unarticulated equivocation among key terms involved in the claims,” or what Anderson anagrammatically calls a MACRUE. (222)
Concerning MACRUEs Anderson writes:
I have argued that the doctrine of the Trinity and the doctrine of the Incarnation should be interpreted as MACRUEs, that is, as merely apparent contradictions resulting from unarticulated equivocation. On this view, some of the terms employed in those claims [i.e., (K1) & (K2)] should be construed as being related *analogically* rather than univocally. If the relevant semantic distinctions could be identified, the logical consistency of the claims could be demonstrated; but in the absence of information *specifying* these distinctions, formally consistent expressions of these doctrines (and their implications) can still be constructed by indicating their presence explicitly with suitable notation . . . In the statements (K1) and (K2) the terms know1 and know2 are such that both relate analogically (or one relates univocally and the other analogically) to the term *know* in a statement such as ‘John knows where Anne lives.’ Consequently, we can say that (K1) and (K2) should be treated as *semantically approximate* to what would be deemed the ‘ordinary” reading of those claims, that is, those interpretations in which each term is ascribed a univocal sense – just as the claim ‘God is wise’ should be treated as semantically approximate to a reading in which the term *wise* is univocal with the same term in ‘Socrates is wise.” (297, 300)
According to Anderson, when we say Jesus does and does not know the time of his return we are simply recognizing an unarticulated equivocation on what it means to know in each of the claims. It could be that the sense of the term know could be understood in such a way “that the relevant distinctions could in principle be articulated and explained is sufficient grounds for distinguishing a MAC [merely apparent contradiction] from a genuine contradiction.”(222) On the other hand, it could be that we can never know the relevant distinctions so that we can harmonize (K1) and (K2). Consequently, it would seem that attempting to distinguish a MAC from a genuine contradiction is a distinction without meaning. Rather than Christians being rational for believing contradictory claims concerning the person of Christ or the Trinity, it would appear that Anderson’s MACRUEs are nothing more than an elaborate attempt to rationalize and deflect the charge that the Christian faith is as irrational and as absurd as the enemies of the Christian faith, and even some of its presumed “friends,” have always said it is.
As evidence that Anderson’s scheme is nothing more than a complex series of rationalizations designed to mitigate the force of the claim that Christianity is, at its heart, irrational (at least Anderson’s understanding of it), one only has to look at the implications Anderson’s scheme has for apologetics. One of the central methods in apologetics, and one for example that Gordon Clark employs in his many books, is the use of the argumentum ad absurdum. The goal in such cases, whether trying to refute Atheism, Neo-orthodoxy, Behaviorism, Romanism, Logical Positivism, or any other competing system setting itself up against the Christian faith, is to argue in an ad hominem fashion in order to demonstrate that beginning with their own presuppositions that a completing system ultimately refutes itself; i.e., that the competing system is not supported by its own underlying presuppositions or axiom. However, if the truths of Scripture, which make up the underlying presupposition or axiom of the Christian system, can be show to be self-contradictory and hence self-refuting, where does that leave the Christian apologist? The question arises; if Christians can point to MACRUEs to explain away contradictory claims in their own doctrinal formulations, couldn’t the proponents of other non-Christian religions and philosophies similarly assert that the contradictions inherent in their own systems are not really contradictions at all but are instead MACRUEs? Couldn’t they also similarly appeal to “mystery” in their own defense when confronting attacks against their anti-Christian systems? Also, what becomes of the Westminster Confession’s claim that one of the central evidences that the Scriptures are the Word of God rests on the claim that the Scriptures present to the mind a “consent of all the parts”? Shouldn’t such bold claims be tempered in light of MACRUEs wrapped in mysteries that we are assured by Anderson are sprinkled throughout the Christian system? It would seem so.
However, according to Anderson:
The most one need concede is that a non-Christian could *also* be rational in believing that the paradoxical doctrines of *his* religion are true. Furthermore, the rationality of those beliefs would still be contingent on the *truth* of the religion in question; for according to the RAPT model, the rationality of Christian doctrinal beliefs depends on whether or not biblical theism is, in fact the case. (284)
Note carefully, the rationality of “Christian doctrinal beliefs” depend not on whether the belief in the Scriptures themselves are true, but on whether biblical theism is true. This is a necessary move in Anderson’s scheme simply because if the truth of any given proposition is evidenced by its logical harmony to other true propositions, and not by MACRUEs, then the Confessional claims concerning the evidences and truth of Scripture, not to mention logic in general, must be curbed. Anderson is left begging the question for according to him the central doctrines of the Christian faith derived from Scripture, including but not limited to the Trinity and the Incarnation, do not logically cohere, and, rather than there being a “consent of all the parts” we are left with apparent contradictions resulting from an “unarticulated equivocation” on critical terms central to our doctrinal formulations. Christianity is therefore not unique among the religions and philosophies of the world and any apologetic method that seeks to demonstrate the self-refuting nature of any completing system on the basis of a reductio ad absurdum needs to be reconsidered.
Admittedly, Anderson tries to limit the force of his position and the use of MACRUEs along with the accompanying appeals to “mystery” to other “theistic religions whose teachings are grounded in special revelation from a personal deity.” While I am not at all convinced that he is at all successful in so limiting this objection, this still means that anti-Christian religious systems may also rationally appeal to MACRUEs and “mystery” when advancing contradictions in their own systems. According to Anderson this is a perfectly acceptable trade off:
If it turns out that adherents of the latter two religions [Judaism and Islam] can mirror the Christian’s appeal to mystery in defense of their own paradoxical teachings, then this is the price to be exacted for reconciling orthodox Christian doctrines with the rationality of Christian faith. In my estimation, it is a price worth paying. (285)
Christians are simply hamstrung when confronting the contradictory claims of Islam, Judaism, and any number of competing anti-Christian religions. Even if we grant for the sake of argument that an appeal to MACRUEs wrapped in “mystery” are warranted if and only if the religion is “theistic” and “grounded in special revelation from a personal deity,” then are Christians on equal epistemic footing with Roman Catholics when trying to expose the contradictory claims made by followers of this and other competing theological systems? It would seem so. Moving things closer to home, how about when confronting the contradictory claims made by Federal Visionists concerning doctrines as diverse as the covenant, election, reprobation, baptism, union with Christ, justification, imputation, not to mention the very nature of faith? Can’t Federal Visionists currently disturbing the church likewise appeal to MACRUEs and “mystery” when pressed on their own contradictory doctrinal formulations? Are not Federal Visionists similarly warranted in their assertions that the contradictions inherent in their own aberrant and deadly doctrines are not “real” but are instead the result of “merely apparent contradictions resulting from unarticulated equivocations” found in Scripture? Again, it would seem so.
But, whether coming from Roman Catholics, Federal Visionists, apostate Jews, or even followers of Islam, where are these “unarticulated equivocations” derived? From their respective reading of their own scriptures of course. The Roman Catholic Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, or any other “theistic religions whose teachings are grounded in special revelation from a personal deity,” real or imagined, are all on equal epistemic footing in regard to apparent contradictions inherent in their systems and are all warranted in their appeal to “mystery” in their defense. For most Christians I would think this is a price too high to pay when trying to reconcile “Christian doctrines with the rationality of the Christian faith.” I would think the preferred course of action, and one that we saw in part one that is supported by the Reformed confessions, is that if a particular Christian doctrine cannot be reconciled with the “rationality of the Christian faith,” then perhaps the doctrine is not really Christian at all, or, at the very least, needs to be reconsidered or revised. As the Westminster Confession of Faith put it: “all decrees of councils, opinions of ancient writers, doctrines of men, and private spirits, are to be examined, and in whose sentence we are to rest, can be no other but the Holy Spirit speaking in the Scripture,” therefore “All [and not just some] synods or councils since the apostles’ times, whether general or particular, may err, and many have erred” (WCF 1,10, 31.4). There is simply no reason from a Christian perspective to think that if a particular doctrinal formulation or definition cannot be reconciled with the rest of Scripture that the doctrine needs to be believed.
As we saw in part one there is no compelling reason to believe in a contradictory theory of the Trinity where it is believed, as it is by Van Til and his followers, that God is both one person and three persons and that this is the only view compatible with Athanasian orthodoxy. If that were the case, and thankfully it is not, then we could safely conclude that Athanasian orthodoxy either needs to be revised or reconsidered in light of Scripture. Thankfully, and apart from Anderson’s objections to the contrary, there is nothing in the orthodox creedal statement concerning the Trinity that requires Christians to affirm anything remotely like an “apparent contradiction” concerning the unity and plurality of the Godhead. Further there is nothing magic concerning the length of time a particular creedal formulation has been held. Time cannot determine either the validity or soundness of any creedal statement. Neither can ecumenism determine its truth.
The question now is how can one navigate around the Incarnation and explain how Jesus can both know and not know all things (Anderson’s (K1) and (K2) above). Admittedly, the problem of the Incarnation is considerably more puzzling. Gordon Clark put the problem this way:
The usual theological treatment of the problem is so self-contradictory that nearly any escape looks promising. After stating that Jesus was a man, a “true” man, the theologians continue by arguing that he was not a man at all — he was only a “nature.” For them the boy in the temple and the assistant carpenter in Nazareth was some set of qualities attaching to the Second Person. But this is impossible for two reasons. First, it attaches contradictory characteristics to a single Person. He is both omnipotent and frail; he is both omnipresent and localized; he is omniscient, but he is ignorant of some things. In the second place, closely related to the first, the characteristics of an ordinary man cannot possibly attach to Deity. The Logos never gets tired or thirsty; the Logos never increases in either stature or wisdom. The Logos is eternal and immutable. How then can these human characteristics possibly be characteristics of God? But by irresponsibly assigning such qualities to God, the theologians contradict their other statement that Jesus was a true man. Even the word true betrays the weakness of their position. Let your yea be yea and your nay be nay. The Scripture simply says, ‘The Man Christ Jesus.’” (The Incarnation,. 76-77)
The question is simply; how does Chalcedonian orthodoxy account for two contradictory natures residing in one person? As we saw above, Anderson asks this question too but concludes that in the case of Jesus knowing all things and not knowing all things, along with a whole list of other contradictions resulting from the one person/two natures theory, that this is just an apparent contradiction resulting from an unarticulated equivocation. But, an unarticulated equivocation derived first and foremost from God’s Word. God simply has not revealed enough information to us in Scripture so that we, as His finite human creatures, even enlightened by the Holy Spirit, might harmonize these apparent contradictions at the bar of human reason. In this case the so-called “biblical paradoxes”result from the insufficiency of Scripture to provide us with the information needed to eliminate contradictions found in the Incarnation and in a host of other central Christian doctrines. It’s not that our theory may be in error or that it might need some overdue revision (recall Anderson maintains that the ecumenical creeds are in essence sacrosanct); any confusion or contradictions that might arise as we try to square the creeds with the biblical data are the direct result from the inadequacy of Scripture to provide a solution. Anderson writes:
This does not at all imply that what is revealed is not *true* . . . It merely indicates that what is revealed is not the *whole* truth; while adequate for out needs, it will inevitably lack precision to a greater or lesser degree. (140)
Fortunately all is not lost. After examining and dismissing as problematic the proposed solution advanced by defenders of the kenotic theories where Christ the Second Person is said to have laid his non-communicable attributes aside in the Incarnation, Anderson points to a way out specifically in the two-mind or dual centers of consciousness theory advanced by Thomas Morris and others. Concerning Morris’ theory Anderson writes:
. . . the Definition of Chalcedon does not explicitly endorse a ‘two minds’ or ‘two consciousnesses’ view of Christ, but neither does it explicitly rule out such a view. No doubt something approximating Morris’s view, albeit less clearly articulated, was favoured by Antiochene school of christology. Indeed, a dual psychological perspective is intimated by the Definition itself through its claim (echoed by the Athanasian Creed) that Christ’s humanity entailed the possession of a ‘rational soul’. . . It cannot be denied that Morris ‘divides’ the two natures in *some* sense, partitioning as he does the consciousness, experiences, and beliefs of Christ with respect to each nature. However, one would be hard-pressed to argue that Morris’s view falls outside the boundaries of orthodoxy laid down by Chalcedon, given the difficulty of determining with sufficient precision how the strictures of the Definition are to be understood. (93,94)
So what is this theory that falls within the “boundaries of orthodoxy laid down by Chalcedon”? Quite simply, and according to Morris:
There is first what we can call the eternal mind of God the Son with its distinctively divine consciousness . . . encompassing the full scope of omniscience. And in addition there is a distinctly earthy consciousness that came into existence and grew and developed as the boy Jesus grew and developed. It drew its visual imagery from what the eyes of Jesus saw, and its concepts from the languages he learned. The earthy range of consciousness, and self-consciousness, was thoroughly human, Jewish, and first-century Palestinian in nature.
We can view the two ranges of consciousness (and, analogously, the two noetic structures encompassing them) as follows: The divine mind of God the Son contained, but was not contained by, his earthly mind, or range of consciousness. That is to say, there was what can be called an asymmetric accessing relation between the two minds. Think, for example, of two computer programs or informational systems, one containing the but contained by the other. The divine mind had full and direct access to the earthly, human experience resulting from the Incarnation, but the earthly consciousness did not have such full and direct access to the content of the overarching omniscience proper to the Logos, but only such access, on occasion, as the divine mind allowed it to have. There thus was a metaphysical and personal depth to the man Jesus lacking in the case of every individual who is merely human. (The Logic of God Incarnate, 102, 103 – emphasis added)
Here we have a theory of the Incarnation that is within the boundaries of Chalcedonian orthodoxy that “allows us to avoid the absurdities to which orthodoxy has always seemed vulnerable.” (LoGI, 103) Morris’ theory explains how Jesus could grow in wisdom, thirst, be ignorant of some things, be tempted, die, etc. Morris’ theory seems to answer Clark’s objections above and explains how one person can have two contradictory natures while avoiding Anderson’s charge of paradox. So, what could be wrong? Well, a problem arises when we ask the question, what is a person? Anderson puts the situation this way:
If claims about Jesus possessing two distinct ranges of consciousness, two distinct sets of experiences, beliefs, etc., are to be coherent then it must be possible to refer to those mental features *without* those features being necessarily owned by an particular person. Yet this is precisely what our concept of a person rules out. If experiences are necessarily individuated with respect to persons, then at the most fundamental logical level it makes no sense to speak of *one* person with *two* distinct consciousnesses (in the sense that each consciousness might in principle be ascribed to a different person than the other). (97,98)
I think this is a reasonable objection and one I believe is in sympathy with concerns raised Gordon Clark. For example, in advancing his own theory of individuation Clark writes:
Accordingly the proposal is that man is a congeries, a system, sometimes an agglomeration of miscellany, but at any rate a collection of thoughts. A man is what he thinks: and no two men think precisely the same combination. (The Trinity, 106)
Therefore, since God is Truth, we shall define *person,* not as a composite of sensory impressions, as Hume did, but, rejecting with him the meaningless term *substance,* we shall define person as a composite of truths. A bit more exactly, since all men make mistakes and believe some falsehoods, the definition must be a composite of propositions. As a man thinketh in his (figurative) heart, so is he. A man *is* what he *thinks.* (The Incarnation, 54)
Now, admittedly, Clark answers Anderson’s objection and agrees that a person is his mind, his consciousness, or simply the thoughts of his (figurative) heart. And, since no two persons have precisely the same set of thoughts we can then individuate the Persons of the Trinity and one man from another. Interestingly too, when thinking on the two-person theory advanced by Clark in The Incarnation prior to reading Morris, I conceived of the relationship between the divine and human persons in Clark’s theory exactly the same way Morris describes the relationship that obtains between the divine and earthly minds in Christ as “an asymmetric accessing relation between the two minds,” or, in Clark’s case, between the two persons. Simply, if a person is a given set of propositions (which are the meanings of declarative sentences and not the sentences themselves), I would think the two person theory could perhaps be pictured as a smaller circle expanding (i.e, as in growing in wisdom, ignorant of some things, etc.,) within a larger circle represented by the sum total of true propositions in the Second Person. Further, since Jesus was also born without sin, his thoughts, as opposed to the thoughts of every other man who has ever come into existence, including the inspired thoughts of the Apostles and prophets, and as they are completely contained within the thoughts of the Second Person, could only be true all of the time (there are many other additional implications of this theory, like the relationship of the doctrine of eternal generation to the human person so that Jesus could rightly see himself both as the human son of Mary and Joseph and as the eternal Son of the Father).
Also paralleling Morris’ theory are John Robbins’ concluding thoughts in The Incarnation written due to the death of Clark prior to finishing the manuscript:
The relationship that obtains between the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, and Jesus is unique, unlike that between the Logos and every other man who comes into the world (see John 1:9). The Logos did not merely light the mind of Christ; the Logos Himself is fully in Christ. Christ could therefore say, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.” No mere prophet could make such an astounding claim. Prophets, inspired by God, possess some of the divine propositions. Christ, however, possess them all, as the author of Hebrews argues in the first chapter. *All* the treasures of wisdom and knowledge are in Christ, for in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
If, as seems to be the case, we now have a solution to the puzzles of the Incarnation, a solution that avoids the contradictions and meaningless words of the traditional formulations, a solution that is supported by Scripture itself, we are obliged to accept it. Jesus Christ was and is both God and man, a divine person and a human person. To deny either is to fall into error. Once the key terms are defined and clearly understood, the Incarnation is an even more stupendous and awe-inspiring miracle than the Church has hitherto surmised. – J.W.R.
However, since Clark explicitly advances a two-person theory of the Incarnation (where a person is defined as his thoughts or mind) , whereas Morris theory merely implies a two-person theory (where a mind is thought to be something a person has as opposed to something a person is), can it be that in successfully avoiding paradox that both Clark and Morris have fallen into the two-person error of Nestorianism? The answer on both counts has to be, no.
In the case of Clark where the charge of Nestorianism appears to be easily made, Clark faces this charge and answers it head on:
Some unfriendly critics will instantly brand the following defense of Christ’s humanity as the heresy of Nesorianism. Nestorius, you remember from the early pages of this study, taught, or was supposed to have taught, that the Incarnation of the Logos resulted in two persons. This view of Nestorius, with its accompanying condemnation, cannot be sustained either logically or historically. As for the history, several scholars assign the heretical view of his followers, who supposedly developed his suggestions beyond his approval. Nor can the charge of heresy be logically stantiated. The reason should have become obvious pages ago. Neither Nestorius nor his opponents had any clear idea of what a *person* is. They used the word but attached no meaning to it. In their discussion and writings the term was as much nonsense syllables as *substance* and *nature.* However distasteful it may be to those students whose knowledge is confined to fifteen minutes of a broader lecture in the Systematic Theology class, and all the more distasteful to the professor who knows little more than those fifteen minutes, they must be forced to acknowledge that the Chalcedonian bishops and the later theologians were talking non-sense, because their terms had no sense at all.
To remedy this disgraceful situation, I have not only denounced the use of and expurgated the term *substance,* but in an attempt to be occasionally positive, I have offered a definition of the term *person.* Most people will find it queer. Most theologians will find it unacceptable. Well and good, let them formulate and propose a different definition. That is the honest and logical thing to do. Then there will be an intelligible subject of discussion. One can reasonable suppose that it could be a better definition than mine. But even if not, it could not be branded as meaningless nonsense. (The Incarnation, 75,76)
Thankfully, it looks like Clark’s defense can be sustained as even a theologian as unfriendly and as hostile to Clark’s theory and Clark in general, James Anderson, agrees with Clark here and on multiple counts, including finding Clark’s definition of person both queer and unacceptable. Anderson writes:
As for the paradox of the Incarnation, Clark’s solution is to reject the positive statements of the Definition of Chalcedon as vacuous and to offer his own definition of ‘person’ as a composite [or complex] of propositions.” On this view, Jesus Christ turns out to be two persons: “a divine person and a human person”. This proposal is designed to alleviate the logical difficulty of attributing both omniscience and partial ignorance to Christ. I concur with Clark that it wouldn’t be fair to charge him with the heresy of Nestorianism, since Nestorius clearly didn’t employ anything like Clark’s definition of ‘person’. (Who does?) (A Response to W. Gary Crampton, 12, 13)
Anderson’s objection to Clark is that he considers his proposed solution “incoherent,” but coming from a man who believes that the Scriptures teach any number of “truths” that are irreconcilable at the bar of human reason, and perhaps even irreconcilable to divine reason as well, I think we can let his objection pass. And, while perhaps it can be maintained that no one, or almost no one, employs Clark’s definition of person it would seem that at the very least the Scriptures do, for according to Proverbs 23:7a; “For as he [a man] thinketh in his heart, so is he.” However, even if no one defines person as Clark does, this should not, in and of itself, disqualify Clark’s definition.
So, what becomes of the two-mind theory of Morris and others who also seem to successfully navigate around the charge of paradox and who have the distinct advantage of remaining within the bounds of Chalcedonian orthodoxy? While I agree with Anderson that two minds implies two persons (at least as far as Clark’s definition person is concerned and evidently Anderson’s as well), how does Morris circumvent this seeming insurmountable objection raised by Anderson? In a nutshell, Morris’ argument, which is taken from Thomas Aquinas (for his complete argument see The Logic of God Incarnate, 153-158), is that a person is not properly defined by one of its parts but by the whole:
On the account just given of human nature, it would seem that wherever there is a complete instantiation of the set of properties constitutive of human nature, there is a human person; more simply, wherever there is a human body and a human soul, there is a human person . . . The implication is that nothing, in so far as it is part rather than the whole qualifies as a *suppositum,* *hypostasis,* or person. Aquinas goes on to suggest that there are cases in which a combination of ingredients in one context will constitute a whole, and thus individuate a *suppositum,* but in another context will constitute only a part of a larger whole and therein will not alone individuate a *suppositum.* (LoGI, 156)
Since a suppostium is any complete generic individual thing whether animate or inanimate, therefore according to Morris:
In Christ the human body and soul were not an independent whole, but were joined to the divine person of God the Son, as the human nature in which the divine *suppostium* dwelt. Not being an independent whole, but only part of that greater whole which was God Incarnate, they did not alone constitute a person or characterize a *suppostium* distinct from that singe person who was the Christ . . . .” (157)
I confess, I find this explanation highly strained. First, if a human person is “wherever there is a human body and a human soul” then the word person is just as much attached to the idea of a body as it is to the soul. However, since God consists of Three Persons and has no body, to say that the divine Logos is a person and that a human is a person would be to equivocate on the word person since the term person could not mean the same thing when predicated on the word “Logos” or “divine” as when its attached to the word “human.”
Second, it is not at all clear how the divine Second Person can be a suppostium, a hypostasis, or a person in eternity, yet also be a suppostium when joined to a human body and a human soul (or, simply, a human person)? It would seem that given Morris’ explanation we would have three suppositums; the eternal divine suppositum of the Second Person, the human suppositum defined as the combination of a human body with a human soul, and the suppositum consisting of a combination of the Logos with the human person (body and soul) in the Incarnation.
Third, where in Scripture do we see a human person being defined as a suppostium of a human body and a human soul? Of course, Genesis 2:7 comes to mind, but doesn’t the person survive the destruction the body? When our bodies return to the dust do we cease being a human person in that intermediate state between shedding our earthly bodies and when we are robed, by God’s grace, with a heavenly one (see 1 Corinthians 15:42ff)?
Needless to say, I find Morris’ reply unsatisfactory. However, if the question is one of faithfulness to Chalcedonian orthodoxy then I think Morris has provided a solution to the paradox of the Incarnation. Admittedly, his theory does seem to imply a two person theory and I really don’t think his discussion of person and its supposed relationship to a suppostium actually relieves the confusion, rather it compounds it. But, perhaps it is the best anyone can do. On the other hand, if the definition of Chalcedon is not as inviolate as some seem to think and as is implied by the Reformed confessions, then I think perhaps Clark has provided a way out of the dilemma of the Incarnation that avoids paradox and one that faithfully explains the biblical data. The other option would seem to be is that we simply admit that Anderson is right and that orthodoxy, at least in the case of the Incarnation, requires the affirmation of an insoluble paradox at the very heart of the Christian faith. Perhaps it goes without saying that I find this last option the most unsatisfactory of all. Of course, there could always be another option out there yet to be discovered or one that I overlooked that will allow us to abandon all three options, but I’m not holding my breath.Explore posts in the same categories: Theology, Van Til