Subscribe via RSS Feed

Edward Irving’s Incarnational Christology, Part 3

Furthermore, Calvin makes clear that the Atonement and the way in which the benefits of salvation are transferred to the believer are fundamentally dependent on this organic union with mankind. “First, we must understand that as long as Christ remains outside of us, and we are separated from him, all that he has suffered and done for the salvation of the human race remains useless and of no value for us.”[40]

…the foundation of all that Christ does through his humanity is who he is in his humanity – he is our brother. His activity has meaning only as he is our brother, and it is only in this brotherhood that Christ in his divinity can reunite us to God. This fellowship of nature, the brotherhood, that Christ establishes through his incarnation is in many ways the pivot on which Calvin’s Christology turns. It is through this fellowship that God is revealed…in [this] sense, Calvin’s Christology is a Christology of the brotherhood of Christ.[41]

For Calvin, the notion that God had assumed sinful flesh in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ did not automatically mean that He was a sinful being. This can be clearly seen in his institutes where he strongly opposes those were who propagating the belief that Christ’s humanity was divinely pure and separate from sinners; the same reasoning that was to be held by Irving’s antagonists centuries later. Such discussion can be found concerning Calvin’s understanding of the reality that Christ was ‘Truly man – yet sinless’: “The absurdities with which they wish to weigh us down are stuffed with childish calumnies. They consider it shameful and dishonourable to Christ if he were to derive his origin from men, for he could not be exempted from the common rule, which includes under sin all of Adam’s offspring without exception.”[42]

As we move beyond the early Reformation to the context of Irving’s time, we find that Reformed theology underwent a considerable amount of development, which can also be seen in Britain.[43] Although the thought notion of Christ’s union with humanity was still present within the federal theological tradition, its perspective had undergone a major shift. Torrance acknowledges a distinct presence in the early Scottish Reformation of the emphasis of an ontological link between the humanity of Christ and its application with the salvation theory.[44] However, he notes that this position is contrasted by a complete reverse of thinking within the later Scottish federal tradition: “It is however right here that we are faced with the deepest scandalon, that by His human nature Christ exerts saving influence on us. This was the very point in Calvin’s teaching so strenuously rejected by some of the greatest champions of the Westminster Theology, such as William Cunningham.”[45]

Federal theology had come to rely increasingly upon Aristotelian metaphysics of nature.[46] This resulted in the mainstream acceptance that the nature of a substance totally equates to the whole being of what it represents. The particular use of the term ‘sinful flesh’ in Federal theology was to express the condition of humanity under the bondage of sin in a way that made an individual legally guilty of sin simply for being human. The only logical way around this was to assert that Christ had assumed a human nature that was inherently pure, innocent and free from sin, as was the human nature that was originally possessed by Adam.

Hendry argues that the strength of Patristic theology’s understanding of the relationship between Christology and Soteriology, i.e. Incarnation and Atonement theory lay in the concept of Christ’s ‘consubstantiability’ with mankind. Yet the significance of such a concept had not been given enough assent within the development of the western church, especially within the dogmatic formulations of reformed scholasticism in the shape of federal theology.[47] “The federal theologians did usually try to leave some significance to consubstantiability, but in effect it was swallowed up in confederation; for the distinctive thing about this theology is not that it employed the covenant idea, which is soundly Biblical, but that it projected the idea back into the eternal order and grounded the salvation of mankind in the covenant made between the father and the Son before the foundation of the world. Confederation was thus made more ultimate than consubstantiability.”[48]

The federal theology, a characteristic product of a legally minded age, maintained its appeal so long as the minds of men were responsive to the legal concepts and categories with which it operated. Its appeal began to decline toward the closing years of the eighteenth century. The rationalistic and romantic movements of that period were evidences of a revolution in men’s ways of thinking that had a profound influence in theology and that demanded restatement of the gospel [with a new set] of concepts and categories[49]

Pin It
Page 4 of 9« First...23456...Last »

Tags: , , ,

Category: In Depth, Winter 2019

About the Author: Trevor W. Martindale has been involved in supporting church-planting ministries in South Africa, where he grew up, and in England and in Scotland, where he now lives. Currently, he is a graduate student at the University of Aberdeen.

  • Connect with

    Subscribe via Twitter Followers   Subscribe via Facebook Fans
  • Recent Comments

  • Featured Authors

    Amos Yong is Professor of Theology & Mission and director of the Center for Missiological Research at Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena. His graduate education includes degree...

    Jelle Creemers: Theological Dialogue with Classical Pentecostals

    Antipas L. Harris, D.Min. (Boston University), S.T.M. (Yale University Divinity School), M.Div. (Emory University), is the president-dean of Jakes Divinity School and associate pasto...

    Invitation: Stories about transformation

    Craig S. Keener, Ph.D. (Duke University), is F. M. and Ada Thompson Professor of Biblical Studies at Asbury Theological Seminary in Wilmore, Kentucky. He is author of many books<...

    Studies in Acts

    Daniel A. Brown, PhD, planted The Coastlands, a church near Santa Cruz, California, serving as Senior Pastor for 22 years. Daniel has authored four books and numerous articles, but h...

    Will I Still Be Me After Death?