One Great Tri-Personal Book
On page 61 in response to Smith’s arguments, Irons — explaining the delicate balance between the Son’s divine and human natures — spoke of the self-imposed limitations the Son took upon himself when he came into union with human nature. Irons respectfully chided Smith for a rather “superficial understanding” of the “historic doctrine of the two natures of Christ” 60.
Irons here again postulates the existence of a two-natures primacy:
“The Council of Chalcedon, based on the teaching of Scripture, helped define for the church the language and the theological grammar that ought to be used in speaking of the two natures of Jesus…although the Bible sometimes uses paradoxical language…’The Son does not know the day or the hour of his coming’ means ‘The Son, according to his human nature, does not know the day or the hour of his coming.’ ‘The Son died’ means ‘The Son died according to his human nature.’ The divine nature of the Son is omniscient and immortal. But because of the incarnation, the Son has taken a true human nature into personal union with himself, so that the Son can experience human things like not knowing everything, being tested and tempted, hungering and thirsting, dying, being raised from the dead, and so on” 61.
There are multiple difficulties embedded within these statements, so I will comment on each one separately:
There is nothing within the texts cited to insinuate that the reading offered by Irons the genuine intent of the author. It is a mistake to anachronistically read “Son” as the later, ontological second person of the Trinity, as “defined” at Chalcedon. The synoptics refer to the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and mean what they say. To suggest that the texts infer only the human half of the “Son” is presumptuous, calling into question the reliability of context and language.
The Son, himself.
Irons used the phrase,
“the Son has taken a true human nature into personal union with himself.”
His use and presupposition of the “Son” is problematic because the synoptic use refers not to the divine nature and/or preincarnate Son, but the historical human Jesus. Irons seemed to reflect that in his understanding of the two natures, there was not a balanced union of human to divinity present within the “Son,” but rather a divine “self” who put on a human robe. Irons used “himself” to refer to the divine, preincarnate “Son” who took “a true human nature.” This again, borders on Docetism, where the “Son” only seemed to be human, was merely a human apparition or manifestation of a divine reality. Another implication of this is that the preincarnate “Son” did indeed change if in fact he became a split person of two natures, due to him having an eternal existence when he was not incarnated.
If a being is omniscient, then there isn’t anything that being does not know. Irons’s reasoning for the Son taking up a human nature was
“so that the Son can experience human things like not knowing everything, being tested and tempted, hungering and thirsting, dying, being raised from the dead, and so on.”
This is a contradiction, not a paradox. If a being is omniscient, then experience in order to “gain knowledge” of something is completely unnecessary, due to it already being known in an “all knowing” mind. If the Son did not “know” without experience, the Son was not omniscient. Such explanations are wholly outside the scope of biblical data. Can God make a rock so big he can’t lift?
Irons’s use of the Son was at certain points that of the two-nature identification, and not only the human nature. He said,
“When the Gospels tell us that Jesus died by crucifixion, they are not saying that the divine nature died — which is impossible — but that his human nature died, or, more accurately that Jesus the Son of God died according to his human nature.”
It aroused my curiosity further when Irons posited that the Son came into personal union with
“true human nature…so that the Son can experience human things like…dying, being raised from the dead…”
If the preincarnate Son, the Logos, the divine nature could not die (“which is impossible” according to Irons), how then does the “Son” experience dying if when incarnating into “true human nature” he laid aside all divinity and divine knowledge? This raises questions concerning God’s (the Son) cognitive access into the human consciousness of the human Jesus, creating implications for God being incarnate in everyone. Is Irons suggesting a two-minds premise? Hick, citing Thomas Morris’s “two-minds” Christology theory states,
“there was what can be called an asymmetric accessing relation between the two minds. Think, for example, of two computer programs or informational systems, one containing but not contained by the other. The divine mind had full and direct access to the earthly human experience resulting from the incarnation, but the earthly consciousness did not have such a full and direct access to the content of the overarching omniscience proper to the Logos, but only such access, on occasion, as the divine mind allowed it to have.”
To which Hick then comments,
“I conclude that the two-minds Christology fails to give an intelligible meaning to the idea of divine incarnation and is in the end no better than the two-substances Christology which it seeks to replace.” Hick, Metaphor, 50, 60.
The point of the matter is that the Scripture never discusses or assumes this is the reality of Jesus of Nazareth.