I haven’t been posting articles very much, as I have been giving priority to seminary studies. But the truth is there are things I’ve written and posted for seminary, or when commenting on someone’s blog article, that I have given much time, thought and effort to. Why not, perhaps with some tweaking, re-post such items here on my blog? Maybe some will be edified by the theological concepts I am learning about and writing on.
So I plan to try to do just that, and hopefully you will as a result see more “action” on this blog. Here then is my first article along these lines.
What, according to T. F. Torrance, are the “two distinct aspects” of Christ’s person? What do we lose by emphasizing only one of those aspects in our theology?
The two distinct aspects of Christ, according to T.F. Torrance, are His humanity and His deity. Acknowledging and understanding both of these aspects of Christ, how they function and interrelate, is critical to a correct theological understanding of Christ, what He is in and for the believer.
If we emphasize only the deity of Christ but do not recognize His full humanity, then we are denying the reality the Bible reports: that God came down to Earth as a flesh and blood, historical man. Torrance says that if God did not become man, then He is still far away from us; and that any such docetic view “snaps the life-line between God and man, and destroys the relevance of the divine acts in Jesus for men of flesh and blood.” In becoming true Man while retaining His divinity, Christ lived a life of sinless obedience to God in our place, for His humanity, though not tainted by sin, was nevertheless subject to the weaknesses real human beings are prone to (e.g., He could be tempted by sin). In becoming fully human, Christ’s perfect record of obedience to God is transferred to us who are also human, when we are united with Him by faith. As Scripture says, “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Corinthians 5:21).” Torrance writes,
Apart from the human obedience and human life and death of Christ, apart from His human sacrifice, we have nothing at all to offer to God, nothing with which we can stand before God, but our sin and guilt. But here in the full Humanity of Jesus, as it is joined eternally to His Deity in Incarnation and atonement, man’s destiny as man is actually assured and restored to its place in God from which he has fallen; man’s wrong has been set aside in and with the judgment accomplished upon the Humanity of Christ and now in His Humanity our new right had has been established before God.
Those views which envision Christ as God but not as a human often do so out of a philosophical presupposition that spiritual life is on a higher plane than fleshly life. Such thinkers believe that God would not have stooped so low as to become a real human being. But Christ the God-Man, by His life and death, redeems and restores both the spirit and the flesh of man, proving that the body is also important in the scheme of redemption. He is forever the God-Man, and when our redemption is complete, both our bodies and spirits will be made like His.
The full deity of Christ is also critical to our theological understanding of Christ’s life, and to our salvation. If Christ is not fully God, the entire significance of His ministry is missed. It is God who saves humanity, man cannot save himself. God saves humanity by reconciling men to Himself through Christ. But if Christ is a mere man, then Christ’s actions would not be synonymous with God’s actions– they would be the limited acts of a mere man. But Christ by His ministry declared in words and acts that He was more than just a man — He forgave sins, spoke authoritatively for God, commanded waves and wind, cast out demons, healed diseases, raised the dead, chose men as disciples (breathing spiritual life into them), and most of all, laid down His life for sinners, only to take it up again, demonstrating His divine authority over sin and the grave.
Viewing Christ as God, we also recognize that Christ’s incarnation and His death on behalf of His elect was something planned by the Triune God before the foundation of the world and that it was accomplished by the power and wisdom of God; it was something that man could never do for himself. It was divine wisdom that designed that the salvation of man must be accomplished by One both fully human and fully divine. As Torrance explains,
Our salvation through Christ is valid because the One who died on the Cross under divine judgement is also God the Judge, so that He who forgives is also He who judges. The reality of our salvation means that its reality is anchored on the divine side of reality, that the Lamb is slain before the foundation of the world, that He has ascended to the right hand of God the Father Almighty, and sits down with God on His own throne because He is God. Everything depends upon the fact that the Cross is lodged in the heart of the Father.