In my previous blog post, I made the comment that Calvin and many of the other reformers would be rolling in their graves over R.C Sproul’s statement. I was wrong in making that statement. Excuse me a little for showing my ignorance. The circles of faith I have run around with have always clearly taught the Gospel that God became one of us. Fully God and Fully human and as a divine incarnate being, took upon himself the punishment for our sins. That is God took on himself our punishment of death.
But, since having that article pointed out to me – I have done more research and found its a deeply embedded and tightly held doctrine within the Reformed Camp. Basically the doctrine of Divine Impassibility is one which states that God is not effected by his emotions. He suffers no pain and cannot suffer pain. Certainly within the framework of the Godhead, God isn’t affected by sinful emotions. Nor does God suffer tiredness, broken limbs and old age.
However not enough thought and careful reflection has gone into how this is integrated into the “Incarnation!” In the framework of the incarnation Orthodoxy states that Jesus was both fully human and fully divine with only one essence. Those holding to the doctrine of impassibility have to conclude that the divine nature of Jesus didn’t experience the effects of emotions: anger, sadness, frustration, joy and fear. Their conclusion must state that the divine nature of Jesus never suffered tiredness, or for that matter he never experienced the satisfaction of enjoying a good meal or enduring hunger.
But, the problem in doing this is that it makes a mockery of the incarnation. It’s denies the one essence of Jesus. The two natures of Christ – both human and divine were and are so tightly woven and integrated together the natures were and are indistinguishable. If the divine nature didn’t experience the humanness of the incarnation; but instead stood aside in some form of schizophrenic detachment – than there are two essences in Christ and not one.
The other argument about it being impossible for the divine nature of Christ to die – for in doing God would have no longer had control and influence on the world is laughable. It appears to me that the philosophical assumption here is that of the heresy we call Modalism. That is that during history God has showed himself as wearing one of three hats. That is Father, Son and Holy Spirit only manifested as one person at anyone given time. He and others holding to this doctrine are clearly confused as to the role of the incarnation within a trinitarian context.
Jesus could only do what he did through the power of the Holy Spirit. He could only do what he saw the Father doing. He could do nothing out of his own strength. Clearly the Holy Spirits activity and work was not reliant on Christ. Nor is or was the Father reliant on the Son. Reformed scholars are quick to point out that they believe there is a hierarchy of sorts in their trinitarin theology where they acknowledge the same essence – but different roles and functions which are subordinate to the Father. Within this context – surely by saying that if the divine nature of Jesus died – this causes the Father to die and the Holy Spirit to die – it squashes all hierarchical understandings and underpinnings of the Trinity. And shows a lack of understanding each member of the Godhead has.
2ndly it further shows that the logic of man is involved in not understanding the miraculous of God. They have placed a restriction on what it is God himself can or cannot do. The purpose of the incarnation is that God became one of us. He came to show us the way. He also came to take upon himself the punishment that we must bear. That is the wages of sin is death. Again, within the framework of one essence all of Christ took the punishment for our sins. God took our punishment upon himself. The one essence of Christ was born. The one essence of Christ lived. The one essence of Christ was tempted. The one essence of Christ suffered and enjoyed the fullness of humanity. And the one essence suffered the brutality and punishment of sin on the cross. And the one essence of Christ died and rose again.
If the divine nature of Christ didn’t suffer on the cross – then the one essence of Christ was divided. The divine nature of Christ didn’t descend into hell and preach to the captives. The divine nature of Christ didn’t rise on the third day and show himself to the early church. And the divine nature of Christ didn’t ascend to sit on the right hand of God the father where he continually intercedes for us.
And if we teach that the divine nature of Christ didn’t suffer and take our punishment onto himself – then we make a mockery of the Gospel and preach a false Gospel. For the good news of the gospel is that God himself bore the punishment for our sins and in doing so forgave us.