The Incarnation

Part 2

By Prof. John A. Reubelt, Indiana University, Bloomington


Our former Article on the Incarnation closed with these words: “Many subjects legitimately connected with the Christological question, as that of the Trinity, the mutual relation of the three Persons of the Trinity, whether aseity must be ascribed to each of them, or to the Father alone; whether the incarnation of the Logos introduced no disharmony into the trinitarian relation and the government of the world,— these and some other important subjects we can here not even touch upon; God willing, we may give our views on them at a future time.”1 This promise we shall now try to fulfil.

Dr. Whedon2 noticed our Article respectfully, but urged the following objections against the views advanced there, viz. “As the doctrine must necessarily be that the Logos became truly and intrinsically a human soul (otherwise Christ was not a perfect man), it seems to follow that during the period of the hypostatical union there is no divine Logos and there is no Trinity; only a dunity.” (Why does he not coin the more analogous word binity?) “Whenever we are told that the Infinite can become finite, can annihilate an infinity of power, and so even annihilate himself, we beg to be excused from surrendering all our previous views of the necessary existence of God, and approaching the Awful confines of atheism. Surrender the doctrine of the necessary existence of God, and you surrender one stronghold of theism. God exists in the fulness of his necessary omnipotence, omnipresence, and eternity. These attributes he may veil, may withhold their display in specific acts, but how can he abdicate or diminish their existence? The Professor’s first proof-text is: ‘The Word became flesh’; which he transforms into: ‘the Word became man’! Thereupon, he insists, that the eternal Logos ceased to be God, and commenced to be man! But if ἐγένετο is to receive so literal a rendering, we must literalize σάρξ also; and then we shall have it that the eternal Logos ceased to be God and became a portion of fleshly matter. The Professor’s argument from Mark 13:32, we think he will find amply answered in our commentary on the passage.”

To this wholesale criticism we must demur for a variety of reasons: we certainly did not say, nor is it in keeping with our views, that the Logos ceased to be God. We translated σάρξ by man, because it means in the passage under consideration man. and nothing else; we did not render it by “a portion of fleshly matter,” because it never has this meaning; κρέας would have been the word to express this idea. “Whenever σάρξ has no ethical meaning, it means the outward sphere of human existence in distinction from the inner man, or the human in distinction from the divine and its energy.”3 That it has in the passage in question no ethical meaning, nor means the body as distinguished from the soul or spirit, as Apollinaris would have it, on this Dr. Whedon and myself, in all probability agree, and it must, therefore, have the other of the meanings given, viz. the human existence (with all its attributes of finiteness and weaknesses, as distinguished from the divine), and teaches, consequently, what Paul teaches more fully in Phil. 2:6–8. As to Dr. Whedon’s comments on Mark 13:32, we are really sorry that we can attach no importance whatever to them, because they proceed from a dualism, which we verily believe, is foreign to the whole Testament.

As appears from a recent work,4 the Christological question has been the question of the divines of continental Europe of the nineteenth century. The unsatisfactory wording of this doctrine as made in the sixteenth century is universally felt and admitted, and almost numberless efforts have been made to express the teachings of the Bible in adequate language. But wherever no change is admitted in the inward being or nature of the Logos, all these efforts have so far signally failed; and a Christ with only an apparent humanity has been reached, or the reality of the incarnation has been virtually denied. Many English and American divines, who cannot accept the popularly received view, assume an impersonal humanity, as Dr. Schaff seems to do. This either means that human personality was not potentialiter in the Saviour at all, or that it was, indeed, there, but was prevented from developing itself by the personal presence of the Logos. The latter view denies, as a matter of course, the real humanity of the Saviour, — an impersonal man is no man, — and contradicts, especially, all those passages which teach a regular development of the Saviour, as Luke 2:52; Heb. 5:8-9, etc. Under either aspect, the impersonal humanity, or, what is virtually the same, the pancephalistic humanity of the Saviour must be rejected. Dr. Dorner’s views, incorrectly stated by Dr. Whedon to be identical with ours, are, according to Mücke, as follows: “The process of the divine life is from all eternity complete and unchangeable, above the line of all historical, cosmical, and human development, while the world is, at the same time, neither an object of indifference to God, nor independent of him. God’s absoluteness would be at an end at once, if he had not always power over the world which he also actualizes. God’s ethical nature would also suffer, if he did not continually go out of himself, in order to bestow from his own fulness life on all created beings, just as he created them originally in love. This continual flow of the divine love beyond itself is for the cosmical sphere simply the source of life; for man, however, who is created in the divine image, a communication of the divine substance; while in the God-man, finally, it becomes the highest possible realization of his eternal relation to the world, which grows with irresistible necessity out of the nature of the case. The world is relatively separated from its God, its eternal end, so long as he has not entered into this most perfect personal relation to it; and the divine idea of the world is not realized so long as their personal union is not realized. The world is more or less alienated from God so long as he embraces it only with his will and intellect, and has not opened unto it the very centre of his personal life of love in the incarnation of his Son. It is for this reason that God takes, from the very beginning, the deepest interest in humanity, in order to grant unto it his love in increasing dimensions.” “God deems it a gain,” says Corner, “and joy for himself that the created intelligence freely reciprocates his love, offering itself as a living sacrifice of love, in which act it does not lose love, does not destroy itself, but actualizes its true idea, viz. of a loving personality. Thus results from history something for God that is valuable in his own supreme judgment — a pleasure for the divine consciousness which it had not before, a joy which he could not have from himself and without the world. And this divine joy we must look upon as increasing in the same proportion as the world becomes purer and more and more the recipient of his holy, wise, and blessed life.”

“The incarnation, which is the highest possible personal self-revelation and communication of God to the world, must increase this divine joy the more, since it introduces also, in a metaphysical point of view, a new form of existence on the part of God — mansit quod erat, factus est quod non erat. The incarnation of God is, therefore, no kenotic self-divestiture or self-limitation to the μὴ ὄν of the Eleates, but rather the highest personal manifestation of the divine life over against the world, wherein the divine pleroma in which the Logos scans, as it were, with one effort and holds eternally present all individual moments of the developing world, is personally realized and manifested, and this highest manifestation of the Logos-world in the God-man is rather a plerosis or plutasis, and not, as Thomasius will have it, a kenosis. The eternal fulness of the Logos loses nothing of its absolute actuality and clearness, being neither potentially diminished nor brought to a stand-still, but rather raised and enriched, continually uniting with itself the development of the divine-human life of Jesus, entering personally into him, and receiving in turn his personality in the same measure as his self-consciousness and will, which is neither affected nor stained by sin — which is, however, in concrete, possible for him — overcomes it more and more, so that it becomes finally an ethical impossibility for him. In this way the sinless perfection of Jesus becomes a reality, in perfect keeping with the laws of human development, and not subject to compulsory influences from without.”

But how is it about the reality of the incarnation, or as Mücke says, the operations of the Logos in his undiminished absoluteness while he gradually receives the humanity of Jesus into himself? According to Mücke, Dorner ignores this question altogether, while Schneckenburger labors hard to answer it. The Lutheran church divides the humanity of Jesus into a local and illocal substance, and Schneckenburger tries to make the same distinction in .the substance of the Logos. The Logos is and remains, according to Schneckenburger, during the time of his incarnation, in Jesus. God, who superintends and upholds all things, has, however, at the same time to sustain, by the Holy Ghost, a human being, to which he imparts his personal life as far as the embryo, child, youth, and man Jesus is able to receive it.

We see in this attempt not so much a division into a local and illocal Logos, as a flat denial of the reality of the incarnation. The Logos was personally present in Jesus, or he was not. The Logos can, as such, have only one self-consciousness, only one principle of personality. If this Logos-consciousness continued in undiminished splendor and clearness during the life-time of Jesus, powers of the Logos, yea, even his life, may have animated the man, Jesus; but Jesus was, after all, a man, a mere man, who sustained but an extra-ordinary relation to the Logos — the difference between the Logos and every other good man is one of degree, not of kind — we have not exactly Patripassianism, Sabellianism, but Logopassianism, with a vengeance. What Mücke adds, does not help the case; he continues: “The error of this (Schneckenburger’s) theory is the old view of the world, still held by Schneckenburger, according to which a full entering of God into the world so as to know himself in a personal union with it, is absolutely impossible. But from the point of view of a living immanency this impediment disappears, and the incarnation of the Logos appears as the actualized personal immanency of God in the centre of the personal world, for which purpose the world itself was created. This personal immanency, or indwelling of God in Jesus, is no physico-metaphysical transcendence of the absolute personality into the finite one of Jesus, which would destroy its human reality, but is ethically mediated and conditioned, as every relation between God and man is. For this reason divine omniscience does not pass over into Jesus, but only the ethical part of its contents that has reference to the plan of salvation. In like manner there does not pass over into Jesus the absoluteness of the divine will, God’s absolute power over time and space and everything therein, but the absolute ethical determination of it to be nothing but a will of love and self-sacrifice which is actualized in Jesus’s death on the cross. This absolute divine consciousness and will of Jesus, both taken ethically, develops itself in the God-ordained way of human development, subject to all the vicissitudes of human life. But the divine consciousness and will of the Logos remains at all times clear and undisturbed, like the earthly sun, which stands clear and bright over the earth, no matter which of the two hemispheres is turned toward, and which away from, the sun. In the same light the relation of the divine nature of Jesus to the embryonic Jesus must be viewed. The latter forms the ocular point of the. Logos-consciousness, the central point of his will, and in the same measure in which the developing Jesus changes by the absolutely ethical actualization of his liberty of choice, his status integritatis into statum confirmationis, the ethical fulness of the divine consciousness and will is opened to his consciousness, and both become identical in the God-man.”

If this is all that this theory can offer, what does it in reality amount to? It gives us a miraculously born child to which the Logos sustains a unique relation, preparing it for a permanent home for himself. No Unitarian would object to this view if Father was substituted for Logos. And when the perfect immanency is finally reached, where the human self-consciousness of Jesus and the self-consciousness of the Logos become one, what becomes of the human, and where in the life of Jesus does this union take place? We also conceive, that in the state of the Saviour’s exaltation the human is the adequate bearer of the divine, the exalted Saviour is in possession of all his ante-mundane powers and attributes; but in this state development, change between joy and grief, a life of faith, are out of the question, and such an aspect the Saviour’s life on earth never offered, while he nevertheless claimed to be the ante-mundane Son of God.

Hence a real κένωσις, a self-limiting act of the Logos, must be assumed; but are the objections to it not insurmountable? That we have to deal here with a mystery is plainly taught in the scriptures; but mysteries are not self-contradictions, and then where is the mystery really to be located? This is the question.

We assume as unhesitatingly as Dr. Whedon does, God’s necessary existence; hence the impossibility of God, or a divine personality, ceasing to exist. Nor do we assume with some theosophers, a state of the Deity wherein the divine substance existed as blind will-power, having to go through a process in order to arrive at a clear consciousness and to develop his ethical character. We say, God loves because he is good, not, he is good because he loves.

But while we claim necessity, absolute necessity, for God’s existence, we claim also absolute liberty for him, and what appears elsewhere as a contradiction, as diametrically opposed factors, viz. freedom and necessity, we claim as intimately united in God. Without necessity there would be no necessity for God, without freedom he would be no personal God, but the fate of the Stoics. We believe in God’s omnipresence, yet in such an omnipresence as is conditioned by, and consistent with, his personality, which includes freedom of will; i.e. we do not conceive of God as pantheistically poured out over the universe, but as being present where he wills to be.

As we are here, i.e. on the subject of the incarnation, entirely dependent on the Bible, unassisted reason making not even the most distant approach toward it, we repeat here once more, that we have to go to work in our reasonings a posteriori, and determine from what God has done what he can do, and not by a priori reasoning what he can do, and therefore has done.

Before entering upon the discussion of the Trinitarian relation of the Father and Son, we shall here merely remark, that by affirming the κένωσις, or reality of the incarnation, of the Logos we do not hold that he ceased to be, or even ceased unqualifiedly to be God. As there is a difference between the substance of the human soul and its self-conscious actualization, so there is a difference between the substance of God and its conscious self-determination. The substance of the soul in the embryo is the same as, of that of the greatest philosopher; a sleeping man is the same to all intents and purposes as to his substance as a waking man, and yet how great is the difference of their self-actualization. The Logos may thus have suspended his divine self-consciousness, the source of the possibility of the exercise of all divine attributes, without changing the substance of his being in the least. But while this is evidently the case, it follows by no means that it actually was so, or that it was even under all circumstances possible. If there was in the Godhead only one personality, only one self-consciousness,it is self-evident that an incarnation in the sense contended for would be an impossibility. This one divine self-consciousness being once suspended, there would have been no power to start it again. God’s activity, providence, would have been at an end, and the universe would have collapsed.

Again, if there was, indeed, a plurality of self-consciousness as in the Deity, sustaining such a relation to each other as to be inter-dependent, so that the Father was as much, for being the Father, dependent on the Son as the Son on the Father; so that aseity belonged to each of the three divine personalities (whether such a relation would be consistent with a strict monotheism, which is so emphatically taught in the Old Testament, and was not affected, in the opinion of the first Jewish-Christian converts by their belief in the divinity of Jesus, is not our purpose to examine here), but if the Father was as much dependent on the Son as the Son is on the Father, we should have, by the incarnation assumed, not only Dr. Whedon’s dunity, having only the Father and Holy Ghost left in the Trinity, but the Father and Holy Ghost would be so affected by and during the Son’s incarnation as to be no longer what they were before. But is the relation of the three personalities in the Trinity that of inter-dependence? Only that doctrine of the Trinity has any claims on a scriptural character which is consistent with monotheism, which is evidently taught as plainly and forcibly in the New as in the Old Testament; and the apostles were so fully convinced of this consistency, that they did not deem it necessary to say a single word to Jewish or heathen converts to convince them of it; and yet the believing Jew would have rejected Christianity at once, if the least doubt had risen in his soul as to the consistency of Jesus’s divinity with monotheism; and to the Corinthians, who had but lately been converted’ to monotheism from polytheism, Paul writes: “We know that there is no other God but one; for though there be that are called gods.....but to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him, and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him” (1 Cor. 8:4–6). What, then, is the relation of the Son and Father to each other according to the scriptures? We say unhesitatingly, it is that of dependence and consubstantiality on the part of the Son. Even their very names imply this. The second personality in the Trinity is called “Son,” “the brightness of God’s glory,” “the express image of his person,” “the Word of God,” all of which names imply consubstantiality and dependence, as the designation of the third personality (πνεῦμα, the breathed thing) implies the same. This is more freely taught in the scriptures. There are, indeed, a few passages in the scriptures where “God,” “the God,” means the whole Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, and Apoc. 21:5–7, where John sees Jesus in unison with the Father upon the throne, and (1:8) he understands by the “Almighty “Father and Son. In the formula of baptism the term “God” is reserved for each of the three persons. But in most passages by the word “God,” “the God,” the Father alone, can be understood (while the Son is called God, he is nowhere called the God). So John (3:16–18). “So (the) God loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son”; and in 6:27. “For him has (the) God, the Father, sealed.” In John 13:31, etc. the Saviour says: “Now is the Son of man glorified, and God is glorified in him. If God is glorified in him, God shall glorify him in himself”; and in John 17:1, he prays: “Father, glorify thy Son, that thy Son may glorify thee; I have glorified thee, and now glorify thou me, Father”; “Believe in God and believe in me” (14:1). Paul teaches the same: “We have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1); “God sending his Son” (8:8); “God has not spared his only Son” (32); “Christ is even at the right hand of God, and maketh intercession for us” (34). So John: “In this was manifested the love of God toward us, that he sent his only-begotten Son “(1 John 4:9); “No man has seen God at any time, the only-begotten Son which is in the bosom of the Father, he has declared (John 1:18); “The revelation of Jesus Christ which God gave unto him” (Apoc. 1:1); In Heb. 1:1–3 by God, the Father must be understood.

Wherever the three highest names are mentioned together, the phraseology generally is, not, “Father, Son, and Spirit,” but “God, Son, and Spirit”; so 1 Pet. 1:2. “According to the foreknowledge of God the Father, through sanctification of the Spirit, unto obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ”; Paul says (2 Cor. 13:13). “The grace of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the love of God, and communion of the Spirit be with you all”; and (1 Cor. 12:4–6). “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit; and there are differences of administration, but the same Lord; and there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.” So John, in Apoc. 1:4–6:”Grace be unto you from him who is and was and is to come; and from the seven spirits which are before his throne, and from Jesus Christ, who has made us kings and priests unto his God and Father.” Christ’s dependence on the Father is positively taught by Paul in such passages as the following (1 Cor. 3:23). “Ye are Christ’s, and Christ is God’s,” and (11:3): “The head of every man is Christ, and the head of Christ is God” — in which two passages the exalted Christ is spoken of. Of the pre-existing Logos John writes: “The Word was toward God”; he calls the Logos, indeed, God, but the Father the God; and it may be remarked here once more that Christ is never called the God. Christ calls the Father his God, both after and before his resurrection; he says (John 20:17). “I ascend unto my Father and your Father, unto my God and your God”: and (Apoc. 3:12). “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God,” and “the name of the city of my God, which is New Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God.” Passages like Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 11:31; Eph. 1:3; Col. 1:3 can be translated only” The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ;” and Eph. 1:17 plainly reads: “The God of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” To say that Jesus has, according to his human side God for his God. and, according to his divine side, for his Father, and as the God-man, in common with us, for his God, is begging the question, assuming a dualism in the Saviour which is foreign to the scriptures. It is true, of the ante-mundane Logos it is nowhere said that God is his God, but one moment’s reflection will account for this. As the correlate of Son is Father, so that of Logos is Legon (speaker). The exalted Saviour has returned unto his full ante-mundane glory (John 17:5) and in this state the Father is called his God. This proposition is so plain, that to deny it is ascribing a want of proper insight of the apostles into the trinitarian relation.

The same truth appears, also, from the whole divine economy. Not only on earth, during his state of humiliation, did the Son pray to the Father, do the Father’s work, obey his commands, drink his cup; but even his coming into the world rested upon the Father’s sanctifying and sending him, which acts of the Father the Son obeyed (see John 11:41; 17:3, 16; 10:36; Heb. 10:5–9). The exalted Son possesses, indeed, all power in heaven and upon earth; but it is the Father who gave him this power, and even now the Son acknowledges continually his dependence on the Father by interceding for believers with the Father. The bride and the Spirit pray to the exalted Jesus; but Jesus prays to the Father, and him alone.

But of equal importance, and fully consistent with this proposition, is the second, viz. that the Son is consubstantial, that is, of the same substance with the Father. Were this not so, the Son would be a creature. We would not press the names here: “Son,” “brightness of his glory,” “express image of his person,” all of which imply identity of nature of the Father and the Son; but we shall call attention to the Saviour’s words: “As the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself” (John 5:26). It is said (John 6:53; 3:15), indeed, also of the believer that he has life in himself, so that he is, by virtue of his life-communion with his Saviour, above death; but Christ has life in himself in such a manner that he can quicken with his voice whomsoever he will. No believer can truthfully say of himself: “I am the life”; while Jesus says of himself: “I am the life,” he being not only for believers, but for the whole universe, the source of life: “He has ascended far above the heavens, that he might fill all things” (Eph. 4:10); and part of all things are the blessed angels, as is, in fact, every creature. “Upholding all things by the word of his power, he sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Heb. 1:8). By this ascension he merely returned into the relation in which he stood before his incarnation to the world from the beginning; for it is he by whom God made the world. In him, i.e. by and to him, the universe is created. All things are made by him, and without him nothing is made that is made. All things exist by him, and draw their spiritual, as well as physical life from him (Col. 1:16, 17; John 1:3-4). This is the meaning of the words: “As the Father has life in himself, so has he given to the Son to have life in himself.”

These two propositions, viz. Christ’s dependence upon and consubstantiality with the Father being thus established, we proceed and inquire whether it is still true what is generally urged against the incarnation. Mücke draws the following picture of the Kenosis: “The incarnation of God is a formal metamorphosis of God into a purely human embryo, which is developed, like every other embryo, in his mother’s womb, and on whose self-development the presence or absence of the Logos-essence has no influence whatever. The same is true of the newly-born babe; the eternal self-consciousness and will of the Logos are absolutely non-existing in him. Neither the divine life of the Father gushes into him, nor does it flow back from him, united with that of the Son, into the Holy Ghost. Like every other babe, he is helpless, unconscious and will-less, is confined to his mother’s bosom, needing her nursing and care. His higher nature, transcending the bounds of merely human nature, is indicated by nothing whatever. Whether the Logos-substance, for the time being perfectly helpless and impotent, is present in this infant, is perfectly indifferent as to his empirical existence; and, with the sole exception of the total absence of sin in the child Jesus, his development into youth and manhood proceeds strictly according to the laws of humanity.”5 Again: “Through the incarnation of the Son the second personal centre of consciousness and will of the Divine Being has fully disappeared for the space of thirty-three years; and the Father’s stream of life gushes, during this period, immediately into the Holy Ghost, and from him back again into the Father. There are no longer three, but only two personalities in the Godhead. Instead of a trinity we have merely a binity. How this is possible, without affecting his personal absoluteness does not appear.”6

Many of these traits and inferences we must reject at once, as unfounded and impertinent. As the suspension of self-consciousness, through a sound sleep, disease, or any other cause, differs radically from a destruction of the same self-consciousness, so the temporary suspension of the Logos-consciousness differs radically from its destruction; being, from its very nature, indestructible; and in the substance of the Trinity no change whatever took place through the incarnation; nor is it more according to truth what is said of the embryo or infant Jesus, viz. that there was no real difference between him and any other embyro (for the time being). An eagle’s egg differs materially from a goose’s egg although they may look very much alike; the soul of a Luther or Humboldt presented, during the embryonic state, no perceptible distinction from that of any other human being, and yet how great was the real difference! As to the position of the Son in the divine economy we readily admit a change in and during the state of the incarnation of the Logos; during these thirty-three years the Logos did not uphold all things by the power of his word, as he had done in his ante-mundane state, in fact up to the time of his incarnation and as he has done since his exaltation, but he accomplished during that period another work of greater importance than the creation or preservation of the universe, the work for which the universe was created and is preserved, and which only the self-emptied Logos could accomplish. But that by the temporary suspension of the Logos-consciousness no vacuum was created, no disturbance arose or could arise in the government of the world, appears plainly from the relation of the three divine personalities to each other, it being the Father’s life that forms the Son’s life, that gushes into the Son and back from the Son and Holy Ghost into the Father, and the same divine life whether going through the Son or not, preserved the world. And this is the very statement which the New Testament gives of providence and the continued existence of the world. It is, according to the New Testament, the Father who governs and sustains all things, the greatest and the smallest, who clothes the flowers of the field, feeds the fowls of the air, and numbers the hairs of the heads of his children: “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” The activity of the Father is displayed in governing and preserving the works of his hands, perhaps also in new creations; that of the Son in doing the work of redemption. It is certainly a strange phenomenon which certain men, however, seem not to notice, viz. that the Logos or Son or second personality of the Trinity is never mentioned by our Saviour as a being distinct from or reaching beyond his own self; the same I that shared all the wants and frailties of human nature, claims to be one with the Father, to have been with the Father from the foundation of the world, to have had glory with the Father before the world was; for another I that was gradually and partially taken possession of by the Logos and which, consequently, left the Logos in the undisturbed plenitude of his super-mundane power and glory, there is absolutely no room in the New Testament, being not only not intimated, but being unqualifiedly excluded; the whole New Testament knows absolutely nothing of a Logos or Son of God not identical with Jesus.

This fact destroys the whole philosophical objection urged against the reality of the incarnation or kenosis; for granting, for argument’s sake, the existence of a local and illocal Logos (are both personal, or is the local Logos merely a power?) which the common view must virtually claim, where do we learn the existence of the illocal Logos and the exercise of his power during the earthly life of Jesus? Is he ever referred to by Jesus? Does Jesus ever intimate his existence? does he put forth any power in upholding the world, or even Jesus in the hours of his sorest trial? No, everything is ascribed by Jesus to the Father; to the Father Jesus prays; of the Father Jesus feels himself once forsaken, which would be absolutely unaccountable, if the Logos had not been Jesus in human form. Of all really divine attributes Jesus claims during his life-time only eternity, and reason discerns the cause of this very readily, viz. because eternity could not be suspended, and Jesus had a clear remembrance of the fact of his ante-mundane glory with the Father, on which knowledge the consciousness of his peculiar relation to the Father rested. “Before Abraham was, I am,” not “I was,” says Jesus, intimating thereby, that by his incarnation his eternity had not been affected. “I had glory with thee, Father, before the world was,” implies that the possession of this glory had been affected by his incarnation. The actual possession of any other really divine attribute, although at times veiled or not exercised, would have prevented the reality of the incarnation, being altogether inconsistent with a strictly human development of the Saviour, on which the scripture lays so great stress. There is, indeed, a mystery in the incarnation which the endless aeons of eternity may not enable a created intelligence to fathom; but this mystery must be located where the scripture locates it; without the scripture we should know nothing of an incarnation, it being none of the truths within the reach of unassisted reason, and on this very ground it must not be approached by human reason without the scriptures; it can be learned only by a posteriori, never by a priori reasoning. Here all the opponents of the doctrine make their fatal mistake, Whedon as well as Mücke, Dorner, and all others. “Whenever we are told that the Infinite can become finite and annihilate an infinity of power, and so can annihilate itself, we beg to be excused from surrendering all our previous views of the necessary existence of God, and approach the awful confines of atheism. Surrender the doctrine of the necessary existence of God, and you surrender the stronghold of theism”; this is the language of the philosopher, not that of the theologian, who believes in his Bible as a divine revelation. And of what account is this philosophical dictum practically? Of none whatever; since the believer does not need it, and the atheist, materialist scorns it as a miserable begging the question. In order to draw correct conclusions from the reality of the incarnation, it is necessary to be intimately acquainted with certain premises, which are beyond our grasp, as the inner nature of the Deity, the exact relation of the three I’s in the Trinity to each other; but as this is not the case it becomes us to receive in humble faith what the scripture teaches. If no one had ever been soundly asleep or seen a person wrapped in sleep, the philosopher might question the possibility of a suspension of self-consciousness without destroying it; the incarnation like the creation took place only once, and reason can, therefore, form no adequate idea of it, cannot understand it; but the revival of nature in spring and the re-awakening of consciousness after a sound sleep furnish, at least, remote analogies of the two great facts mentioned. If the Logos by an act of his own free-will suffered his eternal self-consciousness to fall asleep, to be temporarily suspended, in order to take it again by a gradual development, and with the full return of this consciousness the resumption and exercise of every divine attribute, what Christian theist can consistently pronounce the thing absurd or impossible? and if the scripture teaches this stupendous fact, what believer can refuse to receive it as the highest truth, upon which all his hopes for time and eternity are based?


1) Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. xxvii. p. 32.

2) Methodist Quarterly Review, April, 1870.

3) Müller’s Lehre über die Sünde, part i. p. 391.

4) Die Dogmatik des 19en Jahrhunderts in ihrem innern Flusse, etc., von A. Mücke.

5) Die Dogmatik, pp. 296, 297.

6) Ibid. p. 295.