The Word Enfleshed (Oliver Crisp)

Crisp, Oliver D. The Word Enfleshed: Exploring the Person and Work of Christ.  Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2016.

As with all of Oliver Crisp’s works, this volume brings rigorous analytical clarity to weighty discussions.  Furthermore, the essays are connected.  Some of Crisp’s earlier works (i.e., Retrieving Doctrine) seem more like collections of essays, even though they are quite good.  This is a valuable intermediate-level text for Christology.

Eternal Generation and Paul Helm

Crisp explores some “varieties of Arianism,” so to speak and whether Paul Helm’s criticisms of eternal generation (EG) hold water.

The problem for adherents of EG: “if God the Father eternally causes the existence of God the Son, then his existence is logically dependent on the eternal causal action of the Father” (Crisp 5).

Response #1: Logically dependent isn’t temporally dependent, so Arianism is blocked. Another important point is that since this generating act is spiritual and non-physical–its being generated from within the mind of God–it is “an eternal divine act of internal self-differentiation” (13).  It is a “de re” necessary relation, so Helm’s claim that it moves economy into ontology doesn’t work (though this might be a problem for ESS).

Christ Without Flesh

Crisp rebuts Robert Jenson’s later criticisms of the logos asarkos. Robert Jenson notoriously claimed that Christ is identical to the 2nd Person of the Trinity.  This has the bizarre implication that Jesus’s flesh is eternal.

Jenson might not mean that, though.  He clarifies that Christ is the narrative pattern of Israel

Incorporeality and Incarnation

Problem: how can a simple God the Son possess a material body, yet not be made of parts?  Crisp gives a fascinating discussion of Neoplatonism and panentheism.

Christological Doctrine of the Image of God

Crisp explores the various proposals for the image of God, calling particular attention to the difficulties in the Plato/Calvin view.  If the image of God is what we have to the exclusion of everything else in creation, and I think all sides would agree with that, and if the image is reduced to the soul/rational faculties, then we have the uncomfortable position that angels (and perhaps demons) are also in the image of God.  Few want to go down that road.

On the other hand, attempts to get rid of any “substance talk” concerning the image of God and/or human nature don’t work, either.  For those who hold that the image is connected with ruling and dominion (which I think it is), we still have substance ideas.  Someone who is ruling has the metaphysical properties and capacities for ruling.  I think the dominion idea is correct, but you can’t avoid substance-talk.

Desiderata for Models of the Hypostatic Union

Pace Bruce McCormack, we have to deal with substance.  Even Barthians like McCormack make claims about the properties or concrete particulars of Christ (78).

The problem: Does Chalcedon commit us to a particular metaphysics?  

Answer: Probably.

Some conclusions:
(1) The Son didn’t assume a personal human nature.  This is the an/enhypostatic distinction.

(2) For Chalcedon, a hypostasis “was essentially a particular individual within a universal species, identifiable as such or such a thing by the qualities” it/he/she shares with other individuals (Daley, quoted by Crisp, 86). 

(3) Persons are concrete things. A person is a substance (or supposit) that instantiates a substance-kind by a de re relation.

(4) This does not entail Nestorianism, though.  While almost all human natures are human persons, they don’t strictly have to be. In philosophy a proper part of a person isn’t a person.  There is the famous Tibbles-the-Cat experiment.  Tibbles is a cat with all of the properties of a cat.  He has 1,000 hairs on his fur.  He also has the property part of all of Tibbles’ hairs-minus-one (T -1). Does that constitute a new cat?  What if he also has the part T -2, and so on until T -999? 

(4*) Therefore, God the Son, though he has the property of human nature, is still only a divine person and not also a human person.

The Union Account of the Atonement

What’s the difference between a “model” of the atonement and a “metaphor,” with the latter term being more popular today?  A model of the atonement is a thicker description.  It actually–with varying degrees of success–attempts to explain the “mechanism” for how the atonement works.  Metaphors don’t do that.  Crisp (rightly) opts for models in this chapter.

Aulen: Ransom/Christus Victor.  Gustav Aulen’s historiography has been thoroughly criticized.  So does his claim work on the deeper level?  No. It seems that the ransom is being paid to the devil.

Anselm: Satisfaction.  God’s nature requires that he be satisfied for the wrongs against him. Human sin was committed against an infinite good and requires an infinite sacrifice. The strength of this view is that it actually explains the mechanism better than earlier views.  There are some problems, though.  Nothing is said about penal substitution.  It isn’t necessary for Anselm’s view, so Protestants might balk at this point.

Crisp then discusses the moral and penal views, with the standard arguments pro and con.  His own view, so it seems, is what he calls a “Union Account.”  He has Augustine’s philosophical realism do “all the heavy lifting” (130). If traducianism (T) holds (and I think it does), then there is no injustice in God’s punishing me for Adam. I am metaphysically united to Adam.

There are some difficulties at this point, though none of them are fatal.  If T obtains, then there isn’t any need for imputation language.  Further, are souls fissile?  Crisp says no.  I think they might be, so that’s not a problem for my traducianism.  Further, if T obtains and if the issues resolving sin and human nature are resolved, this doesn’t explain anything about the actual atonement.  T only works regarding sin, not righteousness.

Crisp then augments his view with a “mystical union” account. He doesn’t actually develop it in this chapter.  He does pick up some ideas in the following chapter on the Spirit and Christ.

The Spirit’s Role in Union with Christ

This section gets interesting as Crisp ties in Nevin’s realism with Edwards four-dimensional ontology and identity with time.

Conclusion

There is some overlap in the book and Crisp does use material from previous essays.  Nevertheless, there is a conceptual “flow” to the book.  

The God We Worship (Wolterstorff)

Wolterstorff, Nicholas. The God We Worship: An Exploration of Liturgical Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2015.

I usually get nervous when I read new books about liturgical theology.  The experience reminds me of the old prayer, “Protect us from other people’s good ideas.” Fortunately, this is not Nicholas Wolterstorff’s aim.  He isn’t “renovating” traditional liturgies.  Rather, by bringing all of his philosophical acumen to bear, he explores what we mean by our conceptual statements within worship. 

Wolterstorff defines liturgical theology as “the site where the church, by means of the work of its theologians and philosophers, arrives at a self-understanding of the theology implicit and explicit in its liturgy.”  There is more in this claim than is apparent on its surface. This plays directly not only in the type of God we worship (e.g., his attributes and properties) but in what we are able to say about this God.

God’s excellence: What “grounds” God’s excellence? Wolterstorff suggests it is God’s glory, a theme common in the Psalms.

God’s holiness: for Jonathan Edwards God’s holiness is altogether attractive.  It is “beauty and sweetness.”  It’s certainly that, but when you look at Isaiah 6 that’s not really the picture we see.  No doubt Isaiah thought God beautiful and sweet; nevertheless, in the passage he recoiled.  Barth, on the other hand, says God’s holiness is in the judging actions of God’s love.  Again, that might be true but that’s not what is evident in Isaiah.

Isaiah, by contrast, felt unclean.  God’s holiness is God’s space.

The next chapter is titled “The God Who is Vulnerable.”  This seems like we are already off to a bad start.  Is Wolterstorff denying impassibility?  Is he saying God can suffer?  No.  He isn’t saying God is vulnerable to passions, but that God is vulnerable to being wronged.  Can we wrong God?  Certainly.  Does this mean he is suffering?  I don’t think so. If we are duty-bound to God praise and glory to God, and we refuse to do so, are we not wronging God?

When we praise and speak to God, we are entering into the realm of speech-acts (and also raising the sometimes uncomfortable issue of whether God can respond).  Wolterstorff makes the following claim:

(1) In our liturgy we are addressing God as one who is a listener.

Here we are starting to cut hard against a traditional type of theology, an extreme form of divine simplicity seen in Maimonides and some medieval Christians, that views God as a purely simple essence who can’t listen (or speak) because he already knows all possibilities. If God is the ground of being or the Unconditioned Condition why would he bother responding?  Indeed, it’s doubtful he could speak.

We will return to Maimonides’ bad theology.  For now, we should reflect on what it means to speak.   In speech act theory we have several terms:

Locutionary act: It is raining.  A locutionary act is the sentence.

Illocutionary act: My act of asserting “it is raining.” 

The point is this: my locutionary act, as Wolterstorff points out is perceptible.  You can hear me utter the sentence “It is raining” (or you can see me write it, etc). It functions akin to a universal. My act of making this, my illocutionary act, it’s imperceptible.  What I think Wolterstoff is saying is that my illocutionary act is tied to intentionality.  I am intending to make this statement (and I, in fact, do).  You can’t see my intentionality.  

The relationship between locutionary act and illocutionary act is not causal.  One act doesn’t cause another.  Wolterstorff suggests that the act is a “counting-as” act. “My performance of that locutionary act counts as my illocutionary act.”  This will make more sense when we get to prayer and preaching.

Maimonides, having reduced almost all of the biblical statements about God to anthropomorphisms, had to address the problem of whether God could even hear us.  This is related to but not identical with the Calvinist problem of why pray.  Since God is immaterial and doesn’t have eardrums, can he “hear” our vocal vibrations in the air?  We would say, “He doesn’t need to, since he can see our thoughts.”  True enough, but then why pray aloud at all?

Speech-act theory offers a way of dealing with this issue.  “To speak is not to express some mental state but to perform some illocutionary act,” so Wolterstorff says.  Yes, most of the time the illocutionary act reveals my mental states, but the two aren’t identical.  Strictly speaking whether God can hear my vocal words is irrelevant to the nature of speech, if speech is understood as an illocutionary act. The aim of these acts is that “God will attend to them, grasp them, and respond favorably.”

Pace Maimonides, they aren’t bodily actions.  We perform them by doing something with our bodies.  It doesn’t matter that God doesn’t have ears.  Not even humans can bodily perceive illocutionary acts.  If we say that God listens, we mean that “God attends to and understands imperceptible particulars of a certain sort, namely, illocutionary acts.”

If we say that God listens to our prayer, do we expect him to perform some speech act in response?  Wolterstorff goes on to describe the distinction between analogical predication and analogical extension.  As I understand him, analogical extension is when we use a predicate, “is f,” of something when we use it to say of something that “it possesses the property of either being f or something a good deal like it.”

If I say “My dog is a gem,” I am speaking analogically, meaning my dog is precious. He has little in common with the properties of “gem-ness.” Analogical extension is a bit stronger.  This is what we mean when we say that God “attends to” or “grasps” our prayers.

Having successfully dispatched Maimonides’ first objection, Maimonides (or the tradition he represents) would respond, “Yeah, but does God speak to you?  He doesn’t have vocal cords.” Further, would not God’s speaking (and hence acting in miracle) violate the causal order?

Wolterstorff dodges these questions.  He responds with a fine exposition of the Lord’s Prayer but never really deals with Maimonides.  He does deal with something like it.  God speaks to us in the liturgy via the preaching of the word and the proclamation that our sins are forgiven.  I suppose that deals with one angle of Maimonides’ objection, though it doesn’t address the claim of miracles and the causal order.

Without entering into the cessationist vs. continuationist debate, one line of response would be found in 1 Cor. 12-14 in terms of prophets’ hearing God speak. Of course, Wolterstorff in contrast to Barth deals with Old Testament prophets speaking on behalf of God (this would be similar to a “counting-as” relation).   Further, given what Wolterstorff said earlier about illocutionary acts not being causal, would that not provide a line of response to Maimonides?

Notwithstanding the above observation, this is a fine and unique book on liturgical theology.

Paul Helm: Eternal God

Image result for paul helm eternal god

Helm, Paul.  Eternal God: A Study of God Without Time.  New York: Oxford University Press, Second Edition 2010.

Paul Helm is painstakingly thorough in examining the challenges to God’s being outside of time.  Almost too thorough. In any case, this book will likely be remembered as one of the classics in analytic theology.

Flow of the book: If God is outside of time, then a number of challenges and (perceived) difficulties arise.  The traditional view is the Boethian view: all of past, present, and future is present to God. This view is correct in maintaining that God is outside of time. It is open, however, to a number of devastating defeaters.  Helm’s goal is to reformulate the Boethian view in light of these defeaters.

The most challenging section of the book deals with indexicals: I am here at this place at this hour. The problem is that many of these indexicals can’t apply to God’s being timeless.  God can affirm the following proposition?

(1) I know that it is raining today.

The critic says he can’t because this would place God in a time-bound relation.  It’s not clear, though, why God can’t timelessly affirm this proposition. The only force indexicals would have is that God can’t affirm the following proposition:

(2) I know what it is to be married.

This deals more with omniscience than eternality.  In any case, it doesn’t seem like anything is lost.

Can God know future events?  Presumably, he can. This has been a given in almost every form of theistic belief.  Some philosophers like Swinburne say God can’t know the future if he has also given libertarian freedom to his creatures.  The future actions haven’t yet happened; therefore, God can’t know them. Helm offers something along the lines of a rebuttal:

(3) There is no logical connection between the view that the future does not already exist and the view that the future is indeterminate (121).

I think there is an easier rebuttal, though.  Christianity and Judaism (and I presume Islam) believe that some humans can prophesy (with varying degrees of accuracy) about the future.  If they can know the future actions of free creatures, then it stands to reason that God could, too.

Possibilities of Fatalism

Not all fatalisms are the same.  One can mean:

(4) Everything that happens was bound to happen.

It can mean something weaker:

(5) Everything that happens does so because of a logical necessity.

Timelessness and Human Responsibility

(6) God timelessly decreed that B occur at t₂ and this cannot be isolated from his timeless decree of A at t

(7) God timelessly decrees a complete causal matrix of events and actions (170).

Whenever we speak of God’s being and actions, we must realize that God’s being is logically prior to what he does.

Kripkean Terms

Rigid designator: a proper name which has x property in every possible world.

Accidental designator: property in some world.

Using these terms Helm suggests that “God” expresses the individual essence of God (208). A general essence isn’t a particular essence. God has a set of properties unique to himself. These are “God-making” properties.  This is important because “Being the creator of the world’ is not a part of his nature whereas ‘being infinitely good is’” (209).

Eternal Generation of the Son:  “There is no state of the Father that is not a begetting of the Son, and no state of the Son which is not a being begotten by the Father and necessarily there is no time when the Father had not begotten the Son” (285).

Corollary: If God is in time, then it does make sense to speak of a time when the Son was not.  When did the Father beget the Son? Even asking that question illustrates the problem. You can’t say in eternity past, for that is the thing the temporalist denies.

An Apologetics Primer

My church group began discussing ideas about an apologetics course this summer.  I’m wondering what kind of books to use.  Nothing too advanced.  And I don’t want this to become a “different styles of apologetics.”  Those discussions are usually as fruitful as sucking a gas pipe.  But I have found the following to be good in getting you to think about thinking.

My goal is not to “prove” anything or say x apologetic method is good.  I just want you to be good at thinking, and thinking about thinking.

Moreland, J. P. Love Your God with all Your Mind.  The place to start.  I’ve read it probably half a dozen times.  I used to buy it on the cheap and give it away.

Moreland, J.P.  Kingdom Triangle. Never quite gained the importance of his other book, but in many ways the argument is more focused.

McCall, Thomas.  An Invitation to Analytic Theology.  This will teach you how to break down an issue.

Plantinga, God, Freedom, and Evil and Knowledge and Christian Belief.  After Plantinga atheists realized they could no longer say that evil made the Christian worldview contradictory.

Clark, Kelly James.  Return to Reason. Plantinga’s lieutenant, so to speak.  Read this before you dive into Plantinga.

Clark, Kelly. ed. 101 Philosophical Terms You Need to Know.

Plantinga’s Theses (Does God Have a Nature?)

Theses the analytical theses in his monograph.  It should make following along easier. It should be obvious that these 71 theses are not “71 propositions about God.”  Some are trivial and others are clearly false.  But throughout Plantinga’s narrative he will generate a proposition to show that a particular view has a contradiction, or to set up a future argument.

I laid out these theses because it is getting fashionable in some Reformed social media circles to set forth Aquinas’s view on divine simplicity as the only possible view and that Plantinga rejected classical theism.  Of course, I believe both claims to be false.

  1. God transcends human experience.  We cannot observe or in any other way experience him (this is Kant’s view)
  2. Our concepts do not apply to God.
  3. For any properties and in God, God’s having is identical with God’s having Q, and both are identical with God.
  4. States of affairs x’s having and y’s having Q are identical iff x’s having P is equivalent (obtains in the same possible worlds as) y’s having Q and x = y.
  5. God is sovereign and exists a se.
  6. God is alive, knowledgeable, capable of action, and good.
  7. If (5), then (a) God has created everything distinct from himself, (b) everything distinct from God is dependent upon him, (c) he is not dependent on anything distinct from himself, and (d) everything is within his control.
  8. If (6), then there are such properties as life, knowledgeability, capability of action, power and goodness’ and God has these properties.
  9. If God has these properties distinct from him, then he is dependent on them.
  10. God is a necessary being.
  11. God is essentially alive, knowledgeable, capable of action, powerful and good
  12. If (11), then there are such properties as life, knowledge, capability of action, power and goodness, and God could not have failed to have them.
  13. If (10) and God could not have failed to have these properties, then they could not have failed to exist, arenecessary beings.
  14. If God has some properties that exist necessarily and are distnct from him, then God is dependent on these properties and they are independent of him, uncreated by him and outside his control.
  15. If there is a property with which God is identical, then God is a property.
  16. No property is alive, knowledgeabl, capable of action, powerful or good.
  17. X depends on y iff y’s existence is a necessary condition of x‘s existence.
  18. x depends upon y for P iff if x has P and some proposition or state of affairs relevantly involving y is a necessary condition of x’s having P.
  19. Either Jim Whittaker or the Pope can climb Mt Everest.
  20. Either god or Bertrand Russell created the world is a necessary condition of God’s creating the world relevantly involves Betrand Russell.
  21. I exist.
  22. I have been created.
  23. X depends on y for P iff there is an action A such that y’s performing A is a logically necessary condition of x’s having P.
  24. It’s false that the Taj Mahal is red but not colored.
  25. Any omniscient being knows something.
  26. If God is sovereign and exists a se, then every truth is within his control.
  27. Red is a color.
  28. The proposition all dogs are animals’ is distinct from the proposition ‘all animals are dogs.’
  29. No numbers are persons.
  30. 2 x 4 = 8
  31. It’s not the case that all men are mortal and some men are not mortal.
  32. It’s not the case that God has created creatures that he has not created.
  33. God has created Descartes, but Descartes has not been created.
  34. It is impossible that God has created Descartes and Descartes has not been created.
  35. Possibly p.
  36. Possibly possibly p.
  37. Necessarily, 2 x 4 = 8.
  38. Since God has infinite power, there are no necessary truths.
  39. No particle has both an instantaneous position and an instantaneous velocity.
  40. 2 x 4 = 7.
  41. God has infinite power.
  42. That God has infinite power entails that no propositions are necessarily true.
  43. No propositions are necessarily true.
  44. The proposition ‘if God is infinitely powerful, then there are no necessary truths’ is a necessary truth.
  45. If God has infinite power, there are no necessary truths.
  46. If God has infinite power and if God has infinite power there are no necessary truths, then there are no necessary truths.
  47. God has made p true and has created in us a powerful tendency to believe p; we do believe p; and if we believe p we know p.
  48. We don’t know p and p is in fact false.
  49. 2 + 1 = 3.
  50. If, if p then q, and p, then q.
  51. God knows that he does not exist.
  52. God is omnipotent.
  53. If God is omnipotent, then his power is absolutely unlimited.
  54. If his power is absolutely unlimited, then he could make (51) true.
  55. If he could make (51) true, then (51) could be true and is possible.
  56. (51) is possible.
  57. God is sovereign.
  58. If God is sovereign, then everything is dependent on him.
  59. If everything is dependent upon him, then every truth is within his control.
  60. If every truth is within his control, then (51) could be true and is possible.
  61. (51) is not possible.
  62. There is a property that both exemplifies itself and does not exemplify itself.
  63. Whatever the Bible teaches is true.
  64. The Bible teaches that (61) is false.
  65. God has a nature.
  66. There are some necessary propositions.
  67. God has some property P.
  68. 7+5=12.
  69. God believes (68).
  70. Necessarily 7+5=12.
  71. It is part of God’s nature to believe that 7+5 = 12.

Review: McCall, Invitation to Analytic Theology

This is an old review, but I thought I had already posted it.  I hadn’t.

Despite it’s relatively simple-sounding and generic title, this book is unique in offering both a model for analytic theology as well as a brief crash course in certain debates. There are a handful of books (Richard Muller’s Dictionary is one) that could replace a seminary class. This is one of them.

McCall begins by dispelling myths about analytic theology (hereafter AT). AT doesn’t *necessarily* entail univocal language, substance metaphysics or naivety about church history (though that probably is true about analytic philosophy–JBA).

McCall makes clear that AT doesn’t entail the following

  1. A univocal view of language (25). (NB: Does William Alston hold to univocity?  Cf. Divine Nature and Human Language, pp. 17-117).
  2. AT entails natural theology (26).
  3. AT is naive about the history of doctrine.
  4. AT is apologetics for conservative theology.  Depends on what we mean by “conservative.” Plantinga, for one, has advanced problems of divine simplicity; yet, it probably is true, pace the current leadership of the Society of Christian Philosophers, that analytic theologians are committed to Christian orthodoxy and ethics.
  5. AT relies on substance metaphysics (30ff).  The battle isn’t between pre-Kantian and Kantians, but between Kantians and post-Kantians.  It is possible to read Kant and remain unconvinced.
  6. Analytic Theology isn’t spiritually edifying.

The true gold-mine of the book is McCall’s “Case Studies” dealing with metaphysics, compatibilism, and evolution. Particularly, one gets a refreshing survey of what it means for something to have an essence (kind-essence, Individual essence, common properties, merely human, fully human) and how this pays significant dividends for Christology.


Analytic Theology and Scripture

How does the Bible control and authorize analytic statements?  McCall offers an interesting model that can be applied elsewhere in theology (55ff). Let P be a primary true proposition.

RA1: The Bible contains propositions that explicitly assert P.

RA2: The Bible contains propositions that entail P.

RA3: The Bible contains propositions that that are consistent with P and suggest P.

RA4: The Bible contains propositions that that do not entail ~P, and is consistent with P (it is neutral with respect to P)

RA5: The Bible contains propositions that entail neither P nor ~P, but suggests some Q that is inconsistent with P.

RA6: The Bible contains propositions that entail ~P.

RA7: The Bible contains propositions that which assert ~P.

RA8: The Bible contains propositions that assert P and assert ~P

RA6-8 are incompatible with orthodoxy, yet RA1-5 are compatible and are far more robust than stereotypes of inerrancy.

Christology

Abstractionism:

Individual essence (haeccity): set of properties one must have for this distinct individual.  The full set of properties possessed by that person in all possible worlds in which that person exists.

Kind-essence: the full set of properties individually necessary and sufficient for inclusion in that set.

Common human properties: a property possessed by many or most humans.  Most humans can have a property without its being essential.

Essential human properties: an object has a property essentially iff it has it and could not have not had it.  It belongs to kind-nature.

Merely human: to exemplify only that kind-essence of humanity.

Fully human: to exemplify the kind-essence of humanity.

How does the two-minds approach account for Jesus’s being omniscient per divine yet nonomniscient per human?  Thomas V. Morris suggests an asymmetrical accessing relation.

Concretist Accounts

The “natures” are reified, not properties.

Every primary substance (Fido the Dog) has a secondary substance-kind (caninity) that pertains to it without which it could not exist (104).

For every primary substance x, there is only one secondary substance-kind K that pertains to x through itself and is essential to it.

Unfortunately, this rules out the incarnation, since there can’t be more than one secondary substance-kind to a primary substance.

Medieval theology modified this Aristotelianism: it is possible for a primary substance x that is essentially of a substance-kind also to possess/be/come to be of a substance kind K’ (where K is not the same as K’) contingently and non-essentially (105).

Concretists affirm a part-whole (mereological) account of the Incarnation.  There

He gives a wonderful rebuttal to theistic evolutionism simply by showing how sloppy their language is. Thus, the whole point of analytic theology.

My only criticism of the book is the lack of survey on how to get started in AT (e.g., which texts to read first).

Review: What Sort of Human Nature?

Medieval analytic philosophy gets to the heart of the problem:  If Christ has two natures, one of which he assumed as a human nature, and if he is consubstantial with us in our humanity, yet our nature is sinful, how is Christ not sinful?  Saying he chose not to sin doesn’t answer the question, as merely possessing a human nature tainted by sin makes one guilty. human nature

The short answer to the question is that we only need to show that Christ is fully human, and a tainted human nature is not necessary to the definition of what it means to be human.  Yet this reveals the deep octopus of questions that occurs at the intersection of anthropology and Christology.  Marilyn McCord Adams sets forth several questions on this topic and shows how (and why) the medievals answered the way they did.

Themes

(1) Metaphysical size-gap between God and man.
(2) There is a top-down pressure to regard Christ’s human nature with maximal perfection.
(3) Christ assumes something from each of man’s fourfold states. He has to have something to guide human beings into Beatific glory.

Adams interprets Chalcedon as defining person: Per 451, Person = supposit = individual substance (Adams 8). Other questions that arise: how much did the human soul of Jesus know?  Did it experience defects? If so, what kind?  Was it impeccable?

Anselm denies Christ is born in original sin. If he were, then he would be personally liable.  Anselm says Christ’s human soul was omniscient, yet he doesn’t explain how a finite human mind could have infinite cognitive capacity (17).

Lombard on Christ’s human knowledge: “Once again, Lombard charts a via media: the scope of Christ’s human knowledge matches the Divine, but the created act by which it knows will not be so metaphysically worthy or furnish the maximal clarity of knowledge found in the Divine essence. Even so, it will enable the soul of Christ to contemplate each creature clearly and as present and will include a contemplation of God as well” (21).

Conclusion:

The book admirably serves as a fine example of analytic theology. Adams plumbs the issues and shows the tensions and advantages in each theologian’s position.  I do feel the book’s conclusions were rushed at times, but given that it is actually a lecture and an essay, I suppose that can’t be helped.

 

Review: God Incarnate

I’ve gotten to the point that if someone asks me for a basic book on Christology, I point them to Oliver Crisp. Any of his works. I learned more Christology from this book than in my week long Christology course in seminary. Crisp’s stated goal is to use to the tools of analytic theology to focus on key areas in Christology. Show problems and point to solution. He succeeds magnificently.

crisp

try to find the picture where he has a beard

The Election of Jesus Christ

Standard received Reformed view: the sole cause of election is the good pleasure and will of God (Crisp 36). Turretin and others want to deny the claim that Christ’s foreseen merit is the ground of predestination.

Moderate Reformed view: Christ is the ground of election in just one important sense. God decrees election, and he decrees that Christ be one of the ends. Here is where the MRP view points out a tension in the standard treatment: if all of the ad extra works of the Trinity are one, Logos must also be a cause of election, and not just a means.

This section could have done more. I think he pointed out a key insight of the Moderate Reformed group, but he didn’t deal with Bruce McCormack’s reading of Karl Barth (he acknowledged it, though). There is still blood on the ground from the “Companion Controversy.”

Christ and the Embryo

This is where the money is. Chalcedonian Christology demands a pro-life position. If you aren’t willing to use your theology to fight a war to the death against Moloch, then go sit down. This honor isn’t for you. And it gives sometimes strange (yet welcome) implications. For example, human personhood and human nature aren’t the same thing. Christ is fully human, but not a human person.

We need to be clear on this, otherwise we fall prey to Apollinarianism. All humans are created with something like a built-in God-shaped port that the Word can upload himself at the moment of conception. Where this divine upload takes place, the Word prevents the human nature from becoming a human person (107). In other words, if God the Son doesn’t “upload/download” himself into human nature’s hard drive, then personhood begins at conception.

While the demons at Planned Parenthood probably don’t care about Apollinarianism, that line can work well against those who claim a high church conciliar Christology, yet are scared to fight this war. I have in mind the Rachel Held Evans and Calvin College faculty.  If you don’t believe personhood is live at conception (be it divine or human), then you are an Apollinarian.  Now, that should bother the “ancient/liturgy/conciliar” crowd. If you are in that group and you reject the Apollinarian implication, then you probably don’t need to be voting Democrat.  I am not saying you should be Alt Right and posting Crusader memes, but you need to move in that direction.

Materialist Christology

The upshot: not all alternatives to substance dualism are physicalist. Global materialism: the idea that all existing things are essentially material things; there are no immaterial entities. Christian materialists do not necessarily hold this view, as they would acknowledge at least two existing immaterial entities: God and angels.

Global substance dualism: all existing things are composed of matter or spirit (mind), or both matter and spirit. This position can include Christian materialists-about-the-human-person.

The problem in question: can a Christian materialist about the human person hold to Chalcedonian Christology? It initially appears not, as Christ’s has a rational soul? If Christ’s divine mind/soul were to substitute, then Apollinarianism would follow.

Reductive materialists: a human’s mental life can be reduced to some corporeal function.
Non-reductive materialism: the human’s mental life cannot be reduced to some corporeal function.
Property Dualism: a substance that has some properties that are mental and some that are physical.
Substance: a thing of a certain sort that can exist independently of other things of the same sort, has certain causal relations with other substances, and is the bearer of properties (145). A property is an abstract object that either is a universal or functions like one.

Crisp probably should have said why property dualism is false while he was at it.  Nevertheless, a simply grand book.

Review Thomas V Morris Idea of God

This is a toned-down version of his Logic of God Incarnate and in many ways it is just as powerful and more accessible..  With the exception of his take on foreknowledge and eternity, I whole-heartedly recommend this book.

Leadlight Window St Anselm

Founder of analytic theology

Furthermore, this book is a skillful exercise in analytic theology.  Morris invites us to think deeply on what we mean by God.  And we mean by God:

God is the greatest possible array of compossible great-making properties.

Morris explains some of the terms:

Great-making property: a property it is initially good to have.
Compossible: a set or array of properties is compossible if it is possible that they all be had by the same individual at the same time, or all together.

Morris’s take on God’s knowledge starts off well and cuts finite goddism off at the knees:

If God has to depend on any intermediary for knowledge, then this defeats creation theology: God would then be the creator of the intermediary, yet also lacking the knowledge of what he creates.  Morris then defines two useful concepts in analytic philosophy: de re and de dicto.

The proposition

(1) God is omniscient

Is necessarily true.  True in every possible world.  It has both de dicto and de re status.

G1: Necessarily, God is omniscience (de dicto status)

G2: God is necessarily omniscience (both de dicto and de re).

I am going to skip what Morris says about Molinism, Presentism, and Eternity.  His true skill is in Christology.  Is it logically incoherent to say that Jesus is both God and Man?  Morris shows that when we gloss our terms, there is no problem.  He writes,

“Divinity, or deity, we shall continue to construe as analogous to a natural kind, and thus as comprising a kind-essence, a cluster of properties individually necessary and jointly sufficient for belonging to the kind, or in this case, for being divine” (162).

Morris then capitalizes on the argument in several crucial sentences:

“An individual-essence is a cluster of properties essential for an individual’s being the particular entity it is, properties without which it would not exist. A kind.essence is that cluster of properties without which, as we have seen, an individual would not belong to the particular natural kind it distinctively exemplifies. Of necessity, an individual can have no more than one individual-essence, or individual nature, but it does not follow from this, and is not, so far as I can tell, demonstrable from any other quarter, that an individual can have no more than one kind-essence” (163).

Let’s cash this out.  Humans are sinful. Jesus was human.  Yet, Jesus was without sin, so how could Jesus be human?  Morris shows that sin is a common human property, but not an essential one (since it wasn’t there originally and won’t be there in heaven).  Further, we say that Jesus is fully human, not merely human.

Fully human: exemplifying all of the properties in the kind-essence humanity

Merely human: exemplifying only those H-properties.

Two Minds Christology

They stand in an asymmetric accessing relation.  Jesus typically drew upon his human resources.

This book is easier to read than Logic of God Incarnate, and can probably be found cheaper than Logic.  It ends with a short bibliography.

Initiation into Analytic Theology

The analytic method is a way of doing theology by clarifying terms.  There is nothing evil or sacred about it.  I am writing this to help students get their feet wet without getting turned off by multiple pages of mathematical notations and Baye’s Theorems.

Some of these are on analytic prolegomena, while others are forays into specific theological loci.

Beginner

Abraham, William.  Analytic Theology: A BibliographyRead it for free here.

Crisp, Oliver. Retrieving Doctrine.  Focused on topics in Reformed theology, but employs the analytic method. Very accessible.

McCall, Thomas. Invitation to Analytic Theology.  It’s exactly what it says.  The book was a treat to read. 

Morris, Thomas V. Our Idea of God.  Good primer on how to think about God from an Anselmian perspective.

Intermediate

Alston, William. Perceiving God.  Alston didn’t intend it as such, but this has a payout on the cessationism/continuationism debate.

Anselm. The Major Works.  It’s hard to imagine Philosophy of Religion without Proslogion and Monologion.

Augustine. The Confessions.  Specifically books 10-13 on time and creation.

Crisp. An American Augustinian. A leading analytic theologian meticulously examines WGT Shedd’s unique theology.

Crisp and Rea. Analytic Theology: New Essays in Philosophy of religion.  Some essays are classic.  Others are meh.

Helm, Paul. Faith and Understanding.

McCall, Thomas. Which Trinity? Whose Monotheism? Have you ever come across an idea and despite its initial plausibility, it seemed off?  This book will show you why.

Plantinga, Alvin. God, Freedom, and Evil.  The layman’s version of Nature of Necessity.

Nash, Ronald. The Concept of God.  Nash took Plantinga’s Nature of Necessity and made it accessible for dummies like me.

Advanced

Craig, William Lane. Time and Eternity.  He moved to quickly on God’s relation to eternity.  Read Helm instead.

Edwards, Jonathan. Freedom of the Will.  Ok. I cheated on this one.  But Edwards’ defense of determinism is still worth reading.

Moreland and Rae. Body and Soul.  Fantastic defense of substance dualism.

Morris, Thomas V.  The Logic of God Incarnate.  Probably the most important book on Christology in the last 30 years.

Plantinga, Alvin. Does God Have a Nature? A critique of some versions of Thomism.  Still not sure what Plantinga’s conclusion was.

————. God and Other Minds.  Good discussion of natural theology.

Richards, Jay Wesley. The Untamed God.  Magnficent defense of essentialism.