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by Oliver D. Crisp

The doctrine of the incarnation is one of the central and defining dogmas of the Christian faith. In this text, Oliver Crisp builds upon his previous work, Divinity and Humanity: The Incarnation Reconsidered (Cambridge, 2007). In God Incarnate, he explores the Incarnation further and covers issues he did not deal with in his previous book. This work attempts to further the project of setting out a coherent account of the Incarnation by considering key facets of this doctrine, as parts of a larger, integrated, doctrinal whole.

Throughout, he is concerned to develop a position in line with historic Christianity that is catholic and ecumenical in tone, in line with the contours of the Reformed theological tradition within which his own work falls. And, like its predecessor, this book will draw upon philosophical and theological resources to make sense of the problems the doctrine faces.

Download God Incarnate: Explorations in Christology epub
ISBN: 0567033481
ISBN13: 978-0567033482
Category: Other
Subcategory: Humanities
Author: Oliver D. Crisp
Language: English
Publisher: T&T Clark; 1 edition (October 6, 2009)
Pages: 200 pages
ePUB size: 1643 kb
FB2 size: 1845 kb
Rating: 4.4
Votes: 251
Other Formats: doc azw mbr mobi

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.

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. 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.

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.
Crisp's work in this book is a collection of essays in which he goes into practical issues that flow from orthodox Christological formulations. In his known analytical theological method, he takes issues such as the embryo, the election of Jesus and others to the test. Even though the book can be a slow read, it is worth a while to spend time with it.
The first chapter dealt with his theological method. Important to Crisp is to emphasize the role of the Bible as primary in Christological constructions. The surprising element comes when he adds as of second importance, the role of tradition. For a philosopher to have such respect for tradition, makes the work worth to read. After laying the method, he explains where he is coming from: high Christology, and with Christology from above.
Chapter two dealt with issues of the election of Christ. This is a debated issue that has delicate implications. While many of the Reformers seemed to have emphasize only an absolute decree, Crisp says it was not black and white. The thrust of the argument is that Barth overemphasized the role of Christ as the object of election. Something that Post-reformation theologians such as Turretin did not do. Turretin and Post-Reformation theologians used the language of object to reflect the work of Christ as basis for election of people. Barth on the other side viewed as the eternal decision of Christ to become man as the basis for Christ as the object. The distaste that Turretin seem to have to any idea of object of election seem only to be aimed to the Salmurian formulation. Therefore any negation that Turretin has a view of an object of election in Christ may be even said to be some kind of straw-man by barthians who dislike the post-reformation period. In that context and trying come up with a mediating position, Crisp formulates what he called a MRP (Moderate Reformed Position).
The Third Chapter was important to deal with eternity past and issues with the incarnation. Even though one can affirm that Christ was asarkos and ensarkos, in eternity, this does yield Jenson's conclusions of the a Christ forever incarnate, because that is metaphysically impossible, since Christ has one body and one soul. And also because Jenson takes a temporal view of the incarnation, which seems to make issues even more complicated for him. How can God be in time and enfleshed before the incarnation?
The fourth chapter is on the fittingness of the virgin Birth. Even though there is a sense in which the virgin Birth was not necessary for the incarnation, Crisp argued that it was fitting for Christ to be born of a virgin, because of issues of ensoulment of the body. The creation of the body and soul needed to be concomitant, and in so doing, the virgin Birth would avoid apollinarianism. Even though the NVB (No Virgin Birth) can make sense of this with other takes on the body of Christ, Anselm gives three reasons why is that it is fitting for the Virgin Birth, the most important being: God had not created a human being through that method yet. And in so doing, he showed that it was a divine person being born. Chapter five is an excursus on the same topic of the formation of the body of Christ – in embryological fashion.
Chapter six dealt with the impeccability of Christ. There are several confusions here. One of them has to do with the psychological make of a temptation. Is it a real temptation if you cannot sin? Yes it is; but that does not mean that Christ did not have to fight. Crisp uses a gamma of examples. The kid with allergies that cannot eat peanuts will not eat, even though he thinks it might be good. The pugilist that is so much better than the other still has to get into the ring and fight. But when applied to Christ, the divine nature would not let the human nature sin. This could get complicated because natures cannot act. And in this idea, how could the divine act prohibiting the human? Crisp does not answer. Another problem would be that the sinlessness view makes a confusion in Christ as man and as God. If Christ can sin as man and as God (because the temptation is real), God would negate himself.
The next chapters deal more with modern debates. One with material view of human nature and another with the metaphysical possibility of multiple incarnations.