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The Logos Eternally Incarnandus

The fundamental truth of the incarnation is that the human man, Jesus of Nazareth belongs to the eternal identity of God as the Son of the Father. This means that everything that Jesus is is part of the eternal Triune life. If we say that the incarnation is something that only takes place because of some contingent events in history (the fall), then God’s very being is made contingent upon human action.

In other words, if Jesus really is the Trinitarian Son and if the Trinitarian Son’s becoming incarnate as Jesus is just a band-aid fix for repairing human sin, then the incarnation introduces a radical change into the being of God, such that God becomes what he was not before, and thus Jesus is not as such the Logos, rather the Logos somehow subsists ‘in’ Jesus, but is not, strictly speaking identical with Jesus.  It should not even need to be said that this is heretical.  If Jesus of Nazareth is not exclusively and without remainder identical with the Son of God, then we are still in our sins. 

However if Jesus simply is the Son of God – rather than some nonsense about the Logos subsisting ‘in’ Jesus – then Jesus’ incarnate humanity is eternally part of the Triune life. Thus, the Son is eternally incarnandus.  This is not to deny that the Word became flesh in time.  Rather it is to deny that something which has a temporal begining cannot also be eternal, for if the incarnation reveals anything it is that God’s Triune time is not incompatible with created time.  The becoming flesh of the Word as (not in!) Jesus did indeed happen at a point in space and time.  However, that event in space and time occured within the broader framework of the eternal Triune relations.  The Trinitarian Son can become flesh in history because the eternal being of the Triune God is in becoming and that eternal becoming eternally includes his incarnation.  The incarnation, on this reading does not introduce a “change” into the being of God, or rather the change that it introduces is but a ripple from a pebble within a mighty waterfall.  God’s life is an ocean of overabundant becoming into which the incarnation is eternally and seamlessly enfolded. 

Ultimately on this Christological issue we’re left with one of two choices: either the reality of the human Jesus is eternally included within the identity of God, or the incarnation is only a response to sin and therefore human sin radically changes the being of God into something different that who God has been eternally.  With Irenaus, Barth, and von Balthasar I choose the former option.  Jesus is the Logos.  Period.

10 Comments

  1. Bobby Grow wrote:

    Ok Halden, I see why you commented at my site now ;~).

    Halden said:

    The Trinitarian Son can become flesh in history because the eternal being of the Triune God is in becoming and that eternal becoming eternally includes his incarnation. The incarnation, on this reading does not introduce a “change” into the being of God, or rather the change that it introduces is but a ripple from a pebble within a mighty waterfall.

    This idea of becoming is interesting but seems more hueristic than anything else. How would you define the becoming of the eternal Logos to entail the physicality involved in the incarnation?

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 2:14 am | Permalink
  2. Lee wrote:

    It seems to me that there’s an overlooked thrid option here: namely the so-called Franciscan view (because of its associatoin with thinkers like Duns Scotus) of the Incarnation. The idea being that the Incarnation would’ve happened regardless, because it’s God’s will to share himself with his creatures, but that the particular form it took was shaped by the reality of human sin.

    I think D.B. Hart raises some points worth considering against the Jenson-type view of the Incarnation in that it seems to make evil part of God’s eternal being since the history of Jesus is inseparable from the history of human sin.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 6:26 am | Permalink
  3. Halden wrote:

    Bobby, What do you mean by “heuristic”? Also I don’t think I (or anyone) can “define” God’s being-in-becoming. We can only describe it based on his revelation of himself. So, God’s becoming is not “entailed” by the incarnation, per se. Rather, because the incarnation took place, we know that God is eternally what he reveals himself to be in Jesus. Thus, God’s being does not exclude becoming, but embraces it.

    Or, to put it another way, if Jesus really IS God, then the becoming that takes place in the incarnation must somehow be grounded in God’s eternal life, otherwise the incarnation is not revelatory, but deceptive, concealing a deus absconditus behind the back of Jesus. This, I think we must reject.

    Lee,

    I wouldn’t have a problem with the idea that the “form” of the incarnation is conditioned by sin. I don’t know if Jenson is vulnerable to the criticisms that Hart levels at him, but certainly we must not read the reality of evil into the being of God. Rather, we must say with Balthasar that the “unholy distance” between God and humanity that is sin is “transposed” in Christ into the infinite and holy distance between the Father and Son, thus bringing us into the Triune relations and extinguishing sin and death through the overabundance of the Triune life.

    Wednesday, August 1, 2007 at 8:10 am | Permalink
  4. jared wrote:

    Halden,

    You say:

    if Jesus simply is the Son of God – rather than some nonsense about the Logos subsisting ‘in’ Jesus – then Jesus’ incarnate humanity is eternally part of the Triune life

    This is a non sequitur and assumes an atemporal view of the nature of God (even though I know you don’t believe such). The notion of eternal incarnandus is completely and utterly foreign to Scripture, foreign to the Judaism from which Christianity came, absolutely foreign to Paul’s thought (it being largely and drammatically Jewish) and completely ignorant of the entire epistle to the Hebrews.

    Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 5:22 pm | Permalink
  5. Halden wrote:

    Jared, you’re simply making assertions that are illogical. It’s not a non sequiter at all and this view has nothing to do with an atemporal eternity. Just putting your fingers in your ears and yelling “Not in Scripture! Not in Scripture!” isn’t an argument.

    If we’re just going to get into an assertion match, how about this? The notion that there was a different version of the Son that what is revealed to us in Christ and that the being of God changes from being simply divine to being divine-human is completely foriegn to Scripture, church tradition, and the concept of God in palestinian Judaism and the Old Testament.

    Wow, I can just assert stuff too! How fun is that!

    Thursday, August 2, 2007 at 7:49 pm | Permalink
  6. jared wrote:

    Halden,

    It is a non sequitur, your conditional statement simply does not follow, nor have you demonstrated that it does. Not only this, but only an atemporal view of God could produce a human Jesus prior to His actual birth. That is what’s illogical and nonsensical.

    Show me in Scripture where it speaks of Jesus’ human existence before His birth. I’ve already shown you that the Logos became enfleshed and took on humanity from John 1 and Hebrews 2. The very idea that Jesus could be human before actually, you know, taking on humanity, is quite absurd. This isn’t an assertion, it’s simple common sense or “simple logic.” John says that the Word became flesh and dwelt among men; well, what was the Word before? Flesh? If the Word was embodied prior to the incarnation, then what meaning can the term have at all? Also, how is this merely an assertion on my part? I have made an argument from Scripture and you have not responded here or on Bobby’s blog to even this argument.

    The notion that Jesus was prexistent as a human being (for surely He is no less than that) necessitates an atemporal view of time which conflicts with the temporal nature of humanity (and God, for that matter). Why? Only outside the contraints of temporality would it be possible for a man to exist before he was actually born. If we define time simply as the forward progression of events in accordance with God’s will and sustaining power, then it is impossible for Jesus to be ontologically incarnate before the incarnation. Jesus as “eternal incarnandus” makes no sense given a temporal framework and understanding of eternality along with the historico-biblical account of His birth. Logos asarkos works only within a framework structed by a timeless view of God (see Paul Helm’s insightful, if not lengthy, article on his blog in which he shows that Calvin and Barth were of a similar mind in this regard).

    No one is arguing that there are “versions” of the Son, one version pre-human and another separate and distinct post-human version. Jesus and the Son are one in the same; the Son descended from heaven, took on humanity through the incarnation and subsequent birth of Jesus, and thus He remains. In other words, no one is arguing that logos asarkos and logos ensarkos are somehow two different beings. Jesus’ role as high priest alone negates any notion of His existence prior to the incarnation. Was there ever a time Jesus was not interceding for us as our Mediator and great high priest? What sort of sacrifice was He presenting on our behalf until He became that sacrifice Himself?

    More later.

    Friday, August 3, 2007 at 12:59 pm | Permalink
  7. Halden wrote:

    The conditional statement does follow, and I feel like a kindergarden teacher for having to point this out. Let me give it to you again:

    P1: The Son of God is eternal
    P2: Jesus, the human man is identical with the Son of God
    C: Therefore Jesus, the human man is eternal

    The only way out of this is to deny one of the premises. Either the Son is not eternal (Arianism), or Jesus is not strictly identical to the Logos (Nestorianism). You keep wanting to take the bull by the horns and affirm P1 and P2 without affirming the logical conclusion. That’s just bad logic and bad theology on your part.

    “Only outside the contraints of temporality would it be possible for a man to exist before he was actually born.”

    Here is one of your big metaphysical problems. I absolutely deny that this is the case. You’re just stating a metaphysical presupposition here, which I’m calling into question. Why is this impossible for God? God himself constitutes his past, present, and future in the Triune life. He “was and is and is to come”. Robert Jenson’s Story and Promise would be a very helpful book to read on this topic, if that interests you.

    What happens in the historical moment of the incarnation is the manifestation of what God etnernally is, was and will be. That’s why its revelation. On your veiw the incarnation is not revelation, but deception, because it does not show us the Son as he is eternally in himself, but a new and changed Son who has gone from a purely divine being to a divine-human one. You can say that such a position does not posit two versions of the Logos, but that is manifestly false. A Logos who is simply a divine being is a radically different being from a Logos who is a divine-human being.

    I’ve addressed John 1 on Bobby’s blog already, even if you choose to ignore that, so I won’t repeat myself again. I’d also recommend Barth’s discussion of this passage in CD 2/2, p. 96ff. You keep bringing up Hebrews as if that’s somehow germane to the discussion, but Jesus’ role as High Priest has no bearing on the eternality of the incarnation. In fact, it presupposes it, for the Son has interceded for all the elect (there’s a reformed word thrown in for ya!) including those that existed before the historical life of Jesus.

    And since we’re talking about Hebrews, what about “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever”? There its explicitly talking about Jesus Christ and it seems to say he’s always been the same. Sounds like some sort of eternally incarnandus to me.

    Paul Helm’s article simply follows Molnar, and if you follow the McCormack-Molnar debate, it is abundantly clear that McCormack (who I basically agree with) is right about Barth and Molnar is entirely incorrect. Barth is the most radical exponent of the Logos being eternally incarnate out of anyone.

    One final thing:

    “What sort of sacrifice was He presenting on our behalf until He became that sacrifice Himself?”

    He is, as I’ve said already, “The Lamb slain from the foundation of the world”. It doesn’t say “The Lamb that planned to be slain”, it says “the Lamb slain”. You keep throwing around the idea that your view is Scriptural, but you manifestly have no Scriptural support at all.

    All I’m saying, as I said on Bobby’s site is this: God would have been the same God without us that he is revealed to be in Christ. God’s being is absolutely infinite, lacking nothing, it is the fullness of plenitude and life. Thus, the particularities of human existence do not “add” something to God that wasn’t already there when Jesus is born. Even if Jesus hadn’t been born God still would have been exactly what we see in Jesus, because God infinitely possesses all “be-ing”, including humanity.

    Friday, August 3, 2007 at 1:30 pm | Permalink
  8. jared wrote:

    Okay.

    Monday, August 6, 2007 at 7:36 am | Permalink
  9. Ethan wrote:

    I’m wondering why Chalcedonian language in which Jesus is logically identical to the eternal second person, but only united (not mixed) with the eternal nature has not appeared in the debate? It would appear to complicate the arguments on both sides. Halden’s syllogism would not be so straightforward for it is the Person, but not the nature, that Jesus is identical to. One should also be careful in using such deductive form because this requires the use of univocal terms which we cannot so use concerning the divine nature (except for negative iff syllogisms). That said I have recently moved from thinking a logos asarkos account was more consistent with Chalcedon and Scripture but have recently leaned towards Halden’s position. That said, I still waver about this and have only changed my mind because I think it more consistent with the type of eternity the likes of D.B. Hart, following the likes of Aquinas, affirm but have not thought through consistently (I hesistently claim) at this point.

    Saturday, December 29, 2007 at 2:53 pm | Permalink
  10. Geoff wrote:

    I struggled with this through highschool and into college. The only conclusion I could come to was that if Jesus Christ somehow was God incarnate and suffered, that somehow God the Son eternally relates to infirmity in an incarnational manner. How this could be I don’t know. But I think that if it is correct it shows that Rahner was wrong in postulating that the Holy Spirit could be incarnate.

    The problem with this for me is that it does not bode well for theodicy. If God relates to infirmity and weakness and suffers for sin eternally somehow, does that mean he designed it into creation? But I don’t think Jesus needs a defense anyway.

    Anyhow, good post.

    Tuesday, January 1, 2008 at 10:01 pm | Permalink

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