After defining the doctrine of hypostatic union(Christ: Perfect Divine Perfect Human) and going through its origin(The Origin Of Hypostatic Union in Early Church History), I would love to offer some applications that could be drawn out of this concept of hypostatic union viz.: the divine nature and the human nature of Christ Jesus are hypostatically united without confusion, change, division or separation.
Recapturing The Awesomeness of The Dying God Oxymoron
Today’s Christians often take for granted the prodigious theological accomplishment of the first four centuries of Christianity . The union of Divine and human nature in one person of Christ Jesus, without confusion, change, division or separation seizes the awe-inspiring oxymoron of the bleeding and dying God as it captures the communicatio idiomatum (communication of properties) of the two natures.
Ekkehard Mühlenberg explained that “This personal union of the two natures resulting in the one person Christ is the basis for the exchange of attributes (communicatio idiomatum). Humanity is exalted to divine majesty, and the deity is informed into humanity.”(Mühlenberg: n.d.: 466) Thus what is ascribed to the death and the blood of the Human nature is also being said to the immaterial and immortal divine nature since they are hypostatically united in one person of Christ Jesus¹.
Luke, in Acts 20:28, make use of communcatio idiomatum, as he argued that “‘the church of God which he purchased with his own blood” and the Bishop of Antioch, Ignatius (ca. 30-107 A.D) in Letter To Ephesians, chapter 1 also argued that: “Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of God, ye have perfectly accomplished the work which was beseeming to you.”
Rediscovering Christ Jesus
N. T. Wright appropriately commends us to rediscover Jesus of Nazareth, but he errs, I believe, when he contended that “… if it is in the human life of Jesus of Nazareth that the living, saving God is revealed, that means that John and Paul themselves would urge us to consider Jesus himself—not merely by asking about the hypostatic union and the like…”(Wright: 2002: htm) It was the life of Jesus of Nazareth that led the early Christians to marvel and wrestle with what manner of man is Christ. Early Christians apologist stood faithful to the life of Jesus of Nazareth as recorded in the Gospels to form a philosophical defense of the two natures of Christ in one person.
Merely by asking about the hypostatic union is simply rediscovering both the down-up narrative of Christ Jesus as portrayed in synoptic gospels and the up-down narrative as in the gospel of John. The doctrine of hypostatic union ensures a balanced rediscovering of both the humanity and divinity of Christ Jesus without emphasizing one and dimensions the other.
Apologetics: Defending Christianity With Gentleness And Respect
The doctrine of hypostatic union provides a positive case to how Christ Jesus could be said to have ascended to Heaven and is no longer in the world (John 17:11; Acts 1:9-11) nonetheless wherever there two or three gathered in his name, he is there (Matt. 18:20). As the Chalcedonian statement state: “the property of each nature being preserved”, the property of human nature of Christ Jesus is of one place at a time while the property of his divine nature is omnipresent.
Hypostatic union also solves the paradoxes of Christ Jesus being of not yet fifty years old and has seen Abraham (Luke 3:23; John 9:57) because the properties of his human nature is begins to exist at the incarnation, while the properties of his divine is of timelessness (John 1:1-2, 8:58). The oxymoron of a dying God is similarly solved since with the respect to his human natures; Christ Jesus died (Luke 23:46; I Cor. 15:3) while in respect to his divine nature, He did not die but raised himself from the dead (John 2:19, 10:17-18; Heb. 7:16)
Correct understanding of Jesus’ two natures in one person explains how Christ Jesus was made lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7) as he became man, yet He is worshipped by all angels (Heb. 1:6) for he created them (Col. 1:16) and he is their Lord and God (Heb. 1:8). Furthermore Christ Jesus growing in wisdom (Luke 2:52) and not knowing the hour of his second return (Mark 13: 32 cf. Matt. 24:26) yet he knows everything (John 21:7) is also explained by the two natures in one person of Christ Jesus.
Questions: Some theologians believe that the theory of kenosis (namely Christ emptying himself by taking a form of a servant in Philippians 2:5-8 ) explains why Jesus did not know the hour of his second return since he emptied his omniscient(Mark 13:32). I believe hypostatic union gives a more compelling answer to explain Mark 13:32. Do you agree that hypostatic union, if true, gives a compelling answer than the theory of kenosis? Give reasons to support your case?
The Son of God was crucified; I am not ashamed because men must needs be ashamed of it. And the Son of God died; it is by all means to be believed, because it is absurd. And He was buried, and rose again; the fact is certain, because it is impossible.
– Tertullian, De carne Christi.
1. We have to be careful here that we do no press communcatio idiomatum to a degree that it mixes the two natures(Monophysitism). We have to acknowledged that the two natures are inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably and the distinction of natures is by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved.
Ignatius Letters To Ephesians: The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. 1885 (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) (p.52). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company. (The quote is from the shorted version of Ignatius Letters, emphasis added)
Mühlenberg, Ekkehard (n.d.) “Christology in the History of Dogma” In The encyclopedia of Christianity. Grand Rapids, MI; Leiden, Netherlands: Wm. B. Eerdmans; Brill. (4th ed. Vol. 1-3) Fahlbusch, E., & Bromiley, G. W. (Ed.)(1999-2003).
Wright, N. T (2002) Jesus’ Self-Understanding. Available Internet: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/Wright_Jesus_Self.htm (30th March 2012)