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Eternal Life of God of the idea of human nature with the elements that make it up and as it is realised in Jesus of Nazareth. At the same time I doubt whether, as formulated by theology, this doctrine of the Eternal God-Man can be accepted as a solution of the problem of the Person of our Lord. It is involved in the same difficulties as have been referred to in connection with the Lutheran and Reformed types of Christological doctrine. For the limitation of the Divine in the Man Christ Jesus has to be accounted for, as in these cases, and we are driven, in our attempt at explanation, either to the theory of Kenosis or that of the Dual consciousness. The religious truth to which this view seeks to give expression is of priceless moment, but the intellectual form in which it is expressed eludes our grasp, and the truth seems imperilled when we make our faith in it dependent on our apprehension of the form.
A special emphasis was given to this mode of conceiving the Person of Christ in the Christology of Apollinaris; and some reference may be made to his view, since he has been recently regarded as having reproduced more faithfully than any other the original Pauline thought. According to that great thinker, the Logos (word) or the Pneuma (spirit) was the pre-existent factor in the Person of the historic Christ, and took the place of the human pneuma or nous. This teaching was condemned because it followed, his opponents urged, that His Humanity was an imperfect thing, consisting only in His participation of the human body or material side of our nature, wanting in those higher elements of will and freedom that enter into our conception of a true humanity. The charge was well
1 “All religious philosophy will admit that in God there is the Eternal Prototype of Humanity. All intelligent religious thinking must recognise in the Deity an eternal basis for the nature, the advent, the career, and ideal of mankind” (The Christ of To-day, by G. A. Gordon).
founded. He held, indeed, that the pneuma in Christ was in its very nature human as well as Divine; the flesh or natural physical man of the historic Christ was but the organ through which the Divine Spirit, essentially human in its nature, manifested itself. Still, it remained true that the humanity which He brought with Him into the world was, in its ideal character, its immunity from temptation, its natural incapacity for sin, a very different humanity from ours. Nor could He, as long as He was thus human only in His eternal nature, redeem from sin and death the humanity that is ours, or reconcile us to God. The Church saw that it was but a form of Doketism to say that the only thing Christ had in common with ordinary men was the flesh or material part of His humanity, and in rejecting such teaching it was guided by the instinct of truth.
At the same time, the general conception of the Eternal Humanity of the Son of God, and of Christ as predestined, in virtue of being in His pre-existent state human as well as Divine, to realise the union of God and man in the flesh, is a very attractive one; and the language at least of Apollinaris, in his advocacy of it, seems to answer strikingly to that of Paul. In his History of Dogma, Harnack has remarked on this. These are his words: “ One cannot but express his astonishment that in Apollinaris speculation has returned to its first beginning, for this Christ is really the Christ of Paul, the heavenly Spirit-Being who assumed the flesh.”1 This judgment, however, seems to me to go too far in magnifying the resemblance between Apollinaris' doctrine and that of Paul. There are certain features common to both that tempt us to identify the one with the other, and we are not surprised to find in modern biographers of the life of Christ the influence of Apollinarism when they deal with the mystery of His Person. It
1 Dogmen Geschichte, vol. ii. p. 217 (note). 2 The Kenotic Christology of Gess bears a strong resemblance to
accords with Paul's view of the identity of the Pre-existent Christ with the Christ Incarnate, to think of His Person as being, under both conditions, at once Human and Divine. And Apollinaris' theory seems to be echoed in Paul's language in reference to the transition from the Heavenly to the earthly state of being, suggesting, as that language to all appearance does, that it was not so much the assumption of another nature that took place in His Incarnation, as that of a lower form of the same nature, the assumption of the flesh, a distinction being implied between humanity as it existed at the roots of His own Person, and humanity as derived from us, destitute of the Divine pneuma, and simply flesh. The language Paul habitually uses in reference to the Person of Christ is psychological and moral rather than metaphysical. The contrast, according to him, is not so much between the Divine and the human, as between the Spirit, which is at once Divine and Human, and the flesh. And from this circumstance his language lends itself to the support of theories such as that of Apollinaris, which, going behind the historical in order to form a conception of the Pre-existent One, regard Him in that state as the Divine-human Pneuma, and the humanity He assumed as being only flesh that concealed the true inner personality of the Eternal God-Man.
But notwithstanding what has been said, the resemblance is more in appearance than in reality ; and I am unable to regard the view of Apollinaris as warranted by the thought of Paul. The terms “Spirit” and “ Flesh ” are used by the apostle in a psychological sense to describe the Person of Christ from a religious point of view, and not to denote
Apollinarism. For according to him it was the Logos nature that took the place of the human soul in the body that was born of Mary ; only (and here he differs from Apollinaris) it was the Logos nature depotentiated of all Divine attributes and reduced to a Receptivity for the Divine. See Person u. Werk, iii. p. 379, etc.
metaphysical entities. In His being Spirit, clothed in flesh, Christ, according to Paul, simply fulfilled the idea of our humanity, and was what we are all called to be, and what He makes us. And we seem unable to find in that which was the religious basis of His human personality a clue to the understanding of what He was in His own distinctive Being as Pre-existent and Eternal.
I confess I have little confidence in any speculation that has been formed on the subject, or in the power of the human mind to grapple successfully with the difficulties of it. It lies beyond our experience; all forms of speech about Christ as pre-incarnate must necessarily be figurative and imperfect. The references of Paul are incidental and insufficient to form a basis of theory. We are not to look for that exactness of definition in Paul's Christology which the conflict of later theologies developed. The age of definition was not yet. A love so intense, so all-absorbing, as the love of Christ that consumed the heart of the apostle, cares not to inquire about the nature of the Being that is loved. The contemplation of Christ in His Risen Glory was enough for him. With this Glorified Man to love, to live and labour and die for, to follow now and to hope in for hereafter, he was indifferent alike to questions that related to His Human Birth and His Eternal preincarnate nature. It does not appear that he ever made the Incarnation the subject of reflection except in the one passage in Philippians that has been considered; and there, the difficulty that is felt by us as to how One, Divine in His pre-existent state, could become a Man and remain the same in His original Personal Life, does not seem to have occurred
1“As soon as we can give a reason for a feeling we are no longer under the spell of it ; we appreciate, we weigh, we are free, at least in principle. ... Love must always seem to us indivisible, insoluble, superior to all analysis, if it is to preserve that appearance of infinity, of something supernatural and miraculous, which makes its chief beauty” (Amiel, Journal, vol. ii. p. 21).
to him. It is the Resurrection rather than the Incarnation, I must repeat, that in Paul's view gives us the Christ with whom we have to do, and who is the object of a faith that has a definite content, who is known to us as at once the Man who is Spirit, the instrument of the Energy of the Holy God upon our souls, and the Son of God or perfect image of the Father.
It is to be observed, then, that the previous stages of Christ's Personality, His terrestrial and preterrestrial stages, are spoken of by the apostle only incidentally and in their contrast with His Present Life. His earthly state is represented as one of imperfection contrasted with His state as Exalted, for His real glory was concealed and obscured by the flesh; while, in relation to His pre-existent state, His life on earth is declared to have been a state of impoverishment and voluntary self-abasement for our sakes. No doubt what has always given to the Gospel Message its power to touch human hearts is that Christ, in being born into the world, is declared to have come from glory to dishonour for us men and for our salvation, and that He was aware of this humiliation. But wherein that humiliation consisted, and what the differentia was between His historic life on earth and His prior life in heaven, is a question that could only be answered were we able to tell what precisely is meant by the apostle's phrase, “ He emptied Himself.” It cannot be of "the Form of God,” if we are to understand by “Form” not what is accidental but what is characteristic of God, which is essential to Him and inseparable from His nature, for of that the Pre-existent One could not denude Himself without ceasing to be God. Or, turning to the other clause in his remarkable statement, “He thought the being-on-an-equality-with-God was not, like booty, to be grasped at by Him,”—can we find here any clue to what is meant by the phrase “He emptied Himself”? Some answer in the affirmative, regarding the “equality