Review: What Sort of Human Nature?

Medieval analytic philosophy gets to the heart of the problem:  If Christ has two natures, one of which he assumed as a human nature, and if he is consubstantial with us in our humanity, yet our nature is sinful, how is Christ not sinful?  Saying he chose not to sin doesn’t answer the question, as merely possessing a human nature tainted by sin makes one guilty. human nature

The short answer to the question is that we only need to show that Christ is fully human, and a tainted human nature is not necessary to the definition of what it means to be human.  Yet this reveals the deep octopus of questions that occurs at the intersection of anthropology and Christology.  Marilyn McCord Adams sets forth several questions on this topic and shows how (and why) the medievals answered the way they did.

Themes

(1) Metaphysical size-gap between God and man.
(2) There is a top-down pressure to regard Christ’s human nature with maximal perfection.
(3) Christ assumes something from each of man’s fourfold states. He has to have something to guide human beings into Beatific glory.

Adams interprets Chalcedon as defining person: Per 451, Person = supposit = individual substance (Adams 8). Other questions that arise: how much did the human soul of Jesus know?  Did it experience defects? If so, what kind?  Was it impeccable?

Anselm denies Christ is born in original sin. If he were, then he would be personally liable.  Anselm says Christ’s human soul was omniscient, yet he doesn’t explain how a finite human mind could have infinite cognitive capacity (17).

Lombard on Christ’s human knowledge: “Once again, Lombard charts a via media: the scope of Christ’s human knowledge matches the Divine, but the created act by which it knows will not be so metaphysically worthy or furnish the maximal clarity of knowledge found in the Divine essence. Even so, it will enable the soul of Christ to contemplate each creature clearly and as present and will include a contemplation of God as well” (21).

Conclusion:

The book admirably serves as a fine example of analytic theology. Adams plumbs the issues and shows the tensions and advantages in each theologian’s position.  I do feel the book’s conclusions were rushed at times, but given that it is actually a lecture and an essay, I suppose that can’t be helped.

 

About J. B. Aitken

Interests include patristics, the role of the soul in the human person, analytic theology, Reformed Scholasticism, Medievalism, Substance Metaphysics
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