Chapter VII--The Christ and His Human Soul
It cannot be disputed that, in our generation, Christological theories will stand or fall according as they account for the Gospel picture of our Lord's human soul. Of course the justification of any one theory to the world at large is impossible, because there is no real agreement as to the meaning of the picture itself, nor as to the personality that lies behind it. But in the presence of those who worship our Lord as God, it may be possible to establish our case as at least reasonable.
I. Let us begin with the Evangelist's picture of the child of Bethlehem: a perfect, flawless child: but in all respects natural in His weakness, in His dependence on His mother, [Luke 2:7.] and in His inability to preserve His life from His enemies. [Matt. 1:13-23.] As child the Incarnate was limited by the conditions proper to a perfect, sinless, God-assumed childhood. The neighbours in Nazareth watched His life and His growth, seeing nothing essentially unnatural or supernatural. He was marked by a wisdom that was beyond that of other children, but never for a moment did He manifest a divine wisdom that would startle men into doubting if He were indeed a child. As a child the Incarnate was wise, but His wisdom was limited by the conditions of perfect, sinless, God-assumed childhood. [Luke 2:40; 4:22. Matt. 13:55.]
How wide these limits were St. Luke has been at pains to shew us. He tells us that the boy Jesus was at every moment being filled with wisdom: His human faculties exhibiting, that is, an understanding and power that was the highest possible to a boy. [Luke 2:40.]
As an instance he records the astonishment of the learned teachers and their followers in the Temple at the understanding and answers of the boy at the age of twelve. Our Lord seems to have exhibited an insight into the divine law that was beyond the power of the ordinary child. The cause of this extraordinary understanding, which no one suspected to be more than human, and which was, in fact, truly and perfectly characteristic of this perfect, God-assumed boyhood, the Evangelist traces to the underlying self-consciousness of the Incarnate. [Luke 2:41-47.]
The boy Jesus, through His human soul, had come gradually and increasingly to a certain measure of self-knowledge, as He had reached a wonderful knowledge of His Father; He knew Himself as divine Son conditioned in and by the limits of boyhood. He did not know Himself apart from boyhood; but He did know Himself as essentially independent of the world's relationships and claims. He knew His Father; and He expected others to recognize that His relation to His Father was peculiar to Himself. [Luke 2:49.]
Yet we are not allowed to forget the real limits of this self-knowledge. For in the first place, Mary and Joseph were astonished at His words, being unable to fathom them; having in fact for the first time become aware of His inner knowledge of Himself. His normal life had not prepared them for this. [Luke 2:50.] And secondly, He Himself was quite naturally able to return with His mother and foster-father, and to subject Himself to them. [Luke 2:52.]
For eighteen years more the Incarnate lived among the people of Nazareth, remarked for His wisdom, but not for His learning or His miraculous power. As man He was limited by the conditions of a sinless, perfect, God-assumed manhood. Of His inner life we have, of course, no record. We can form no conception of the ever-deepening communion of the Christ with His Father through His human soul; and we know too little of our own growth in self-consciousness to be able to speculate upon that of the divine Son conditioned in and by our manhood. Only we have St. Luke's word that the young man Jesus increased in wisdom as He grew in body; and that this wisdom won for Him favour among the people round about. [Luke 2:52.] As a young man the Incarnate actually possessed and displayed a wisdom that was in no sense His in the years of His childhood. The growth in wisdom was the development of the Incarnate Himself--of the Son of God in manhood, who has no existence, as Incarnate, apart from His human soul.
The law of self-restraint taken upon Himself by the Logos in His state of glory made it both necessary and possible that in the state of His humiliation He should have no consciousness that His assumed, human soul could not mediate. Hence the acceptance in their due order of the limitations of babyhood, childhood, and manhood. And hence it is that we truly speak of the growth of the Incarnate in wisdom and stature.
II. The next decisive record of our Lord's self-knowledge is given us in the story of His baptism.
In His thirtieth year, in the prime of His perfect manhood, the Incarnate was able to exhibit His true self in and through perfect human conditions. He had exhibited Godhead in babyhood, in childhood, and in youth; now He would exhibit it in complete manhood. And in the measure that manhood exceeds childhood, the revelation made by Christ in His manhood was more full and complete, though not more wonderful, than the revelation made in childhood.
As I have said, we are not shewn the steps that lay between His consciousness as a child and His consciousness as man. At His baptism He is seen to have attained that stage of self-knowledge in which He could say of Himself, "I and My Father are One"; [John 10:30.] "I came out from the Father, and am come into the world"; [John 14:28.] "Glorify Me with thine own self with the glory that I had with thee before the world was." [John 17:5.] Of the intervening stages we are told nothing.
Again, at His baptism we see His manhood so truly developed that it could be the medium of His sufficient communion with His Father, that He might receive from the Father that which was to be humanly translated and revealed. [John 5:19, 30; 7:16; 8:8, etc.] For how many years it had been so sufficient we are not told, nor can we guess; but we are led to believe that so had the eternal Son humbled Himself that as Incarnate He did actually depend upon His human soul for His self-knowledge as God, and for His communion with the Father.
And on the day of the baptism the Incarnate was able to begin His work. His acceptance of John's baptism was an act of obedience, [Matt. 3:15.] a self-surrender to the divine law; and He accompanied it with an act of self-union with the Father in prayer. [Luke 3:21.] Knowing Himself as Son in manhood, He approached His Father in manhood; surrendering Himself to the divinely-ordered dispensation of repentance.
Then it was that the inner self-consciousness of the Incarnate Son was at once exhibited and vindicated by the power of the Father. The opened heavens bore witness to the presence upon earth of the divine Son; the descending Spirit by His coming proclaimed both the reality and the wonderful capability of the manhood which the Son had taken; while the voice of the Father made it clear to all generations that Jesus the Son of Mary is truly and essentially God the Son, dwelling in and under the conditions of perfect, sinless, flawless manhood, such that in Him as in it, the Father is always well pleased. [Matt. 3:13-17. Mark 1:9-11. Luke 3:21-22. John 1:32-34.]
Upon the level of self-knowledge on which the Incarnate went to His baptism He appears to have performed the works of His ministry. He never for a moment shews Himself independent of manhood's conditions. One with the Father, mindful of His former glory, conscious of all to which He is moving, He seems never to have realized Himself apart from His manhood. Always He reminds us that His Father is greater than He; that He must still go to Him with whom He is one, and in whom He is. Manhood makes the difference. The going to the Father is the uplifting of His manhood from the earthly level to the heavenly; the stripping it of its weaknesses; the setting it free from limitations; and thus enabling it to mediate a fullness of self-knowledge that is not possible upon earth.
That this is the true explanation of much that is mysterious in our Lord's words seems clear from the study of the Transfiguration of His manhood in the sight of His chosen apostles. [Matt. 17:1-8. Mark 9:2-8. Luke 9:28-36.]
In that wonderful incident we are shewn the capacity of the Incarnate's manhood for spiritual activities, as the divine glory is focussed in the face of Jesus: while at the same time we are told that the transfigured Lord holds communion with Moses and Elijah through His human faculties. [Luke 9:31.] It would seem that He could not manifest His divine power for the comfort of the disciples, nor taste for a moment of the divine glory, except through His manhood. For this reason was the divine assurance necessary, "This is my beloved Son." As if it were a danger to the Apostles to think that He who is bound by human limitations must in fact be merely human.
III. Finally we must not fail to notice how the triumph of the Transfiguration was undisturbed by the Saviour's certain foreknowledge of the Cross and Passion. [Luke 9:31.] For this consideration helps us to realize how truly conditioned in manhood was the self-consciousness of the Incarnate. Knowing Himself to be the divine Son He is mindful of His eternal glory; but knowing Himself only as divine Son in manhood He has, as Incarnate, no knowledge of a self that cannot really and properly be the subject of human suffering and death. The Transfiguration explains at once the divine heights of the Saviour's great prayer, [John 17:3, 5, 20, 24.] and the human depths of the Passion and Crucifixion. [Luke 22:44. Matt. 27:46.] As the time of the Passion grows nearer we become more and more aware of the conditions of the Saviour's self-knowledge.
He is pictured as anticipating His glory, [John 17:1, 5.] as moving calmly forward to His glorification with and by the Father; [Ibid. 13:1.] but always His language and His actions are tempered by a recognition of limitation. [John 17:7. Cf. 17:28; 7:39.] He cannot escape from the sense of trouble that possesses His soul; [John 12:27. Matt. 26:38.] He cannot avoid the prayer of the agony in the garden; [Matt. 26:39-46. Luke 22:40-46.] nor the feeling of desolation on the Cross. [Matt. 27:46.] Son of God He is, and Son of God He knows Himself to be: but it is Son of God in manhood. He does not know Himself apart from manhood. It is He Himself who is troubled; He Himself who is in bitterness of soul; He Himself who prays in agony and cries aloud in desolation; it is He Himself who cannot come to the Father except in and through His manhood.
Make what allowance we can for His foreknowledge of the Passion, His calm certainty of victory, and His miraculous power, we are still compelled to face the Gospel picture of the Incarnate who because He was man must suffer in His soul, must know the sweat of blood, and the darkness of the desolation.
To differentiate in this particular between the eternal Son and His manhood is to postulate soul-agony of an impersonal manhood, which is impossible; while to emphasize the human character of the Saviour at the cost of His deity is to rob the Passion of its value. While, then, we strongly maintain that the Son of God suffered only in respect to His human nature, we must not minimize the truth that He who suffered is actually the Son of God Himself. We must not think of the Incarnate as if He is two selves: the one divine, standing aloof from the Passion; the other human, or divine-human, the subject of the sufferings and death. The Self of the Incarnate is one and one only. He who was mocked, scourged, and crucified was not conscious of another self that could not in any way be mocked or scourged or crucified. He knew Himself as divine; but as divine in manhood. And as divine in manhood He was able to experience all that belongs to manhood's state.
This way of putting the matter seems to me to be most true. The Gospel does not authorize us to regard the Saviour as being conscious of a self that could not be, and that in fact was not, the subject of the sufferings and mockery and death. There was not, within the relations that centre round the Incarnate, a second, larger, more powerful self in the background; restrained from interfering with the suffering of a lower, less powerful, limited self. Such a view does seem to hold possession of the minds of many who have been brought up in the lines of Cyrilline thought; but it has no authority in Scripture and cannot be reconciled with the dogma of the unity of the Incarnate Person.
The Christ of the Gospels is the Incarnate Son: the Son of God self-restrained in conditions of manhood. His self-knowledge as divine Son is at every moment to be measured by the capacity of His human soul to mediate it. Which measure, as being that of a soul flawless, sinless, perfectly developed at every stage, and essentially united with the Son of God, no human intellect can rightly gauge; it is to be known only from the Gospel record. And in the Gospels it seems clear that the Incarnate possesses one single consciousness of such a content that He can really and truly be the personal subject of the most shameful treatment, spitting, mocking, crowning with thorns, scourging, and crucifixion.
So the Gospel story tells us; and as we allow the plain statement of the truth to sink into our minds, apart from any modifying explanations of the teachers whose schools we have noticed, the real meaning of the Passion of the Son of God becomes more plain, more startling, and more convincing. The horror of sin is indeed felt when we can understand that He who bore its penalty and faced its power was so limited as to be entirely at the mercy of His manhood! In manhood He had willed that the battle should be fought, in manhood He must suffer, and it was as burdened by our manhood that He went into the battle. There was no reserve of unlimited divine power in the consciousness of which the Incarnate might face His death. Divine power He had, for He is divine. But He could use no divine power that was not truly mediated by His manhood. Hence his apparent helplessness at the seat of judgement: a helplessness not personal and proper to Him as God, but assumed in the sense that it was most proper to God in the manhood that He had taken. The Incarnate really felt all the sufferings Himself, in His divine self: and the medium of His suffering was the manhood in which He had willed to live a life of limited self-consciousness.
To labour this point is not, I think, to waste time. It is so very important that we should have a clear notion of the relation of the person of the Incarnate to His sufferings. And the Gospels certainly require that on the one hand we avoid the extreme Kenotic position, in which we can see no divine power at all; and on the other hand the extreme Cyrilline view of the Christ as being so nearly dual in personality that the divine person, as it were, watches Himself as man suffering. In the one case the Incarnate is deprived of the power in which He redeemed the world; in the other He is said to possess a power that has no relation to His incarnate state at all, the presence of which gives an air of unreality to the whole story of the Passion. For while it is true that He who was mocked could have slain His foes by a word, yet it is also true that the power to do so was not within His use as Incarnate, and had He exercised it He would at once have passed from the limited state of the Incarnation into the full powerful state of the glory of the Logos. As Incarnate, as obedient to the law of self-restraint, He could not have exercised such a marvellous power. In fact, as He Himself said, had He needed help, angels would have come to His side. [Matt. 26:53.] So truly was He as Incarnate dependent!
IV. We may then, in view of the Gospel picture, try to formulate our theory of the Christ's knowledge of the Father and of Himself as sent by the Father.
(a) Jesus Christ, in His human soul, knew His Father at each stage of His development, with that perfect and complete vision that befits each stage; just as, all down the ages, the redeemed soul will behold, in the soul of Jesus, the same Vision in its own degree; whether it be the soul of infant, child, or full-grown man or woman. That is to say, all that man can ever know or see of God was present perfectly and in full measure, in proportion to manhood's capacity, in the growing soul of Jesus, Son of Mary.
Thus at each stage of His growth He had the highest possible knowledge of the Father, and of His relation with the Father, and with those to whom the Father had sent Him, that such a human soul, at its stage of development, could possibly mediate. And this knowledge we call the Beatific Vision, the Vision of God.
It is impossible to conceive of the Eternal Word ever losing the Beatific Vision, for to do so were to lose His own self-knowledge!
And it is essential to the work of our redemption, as we reverently understand it, that the human soul of the Redeemer should share the Vision, that it may become to us our immediate source of Vision.
Hence we meet the Christ, possessing in human soul the Vision of God; and as Incarnate having no vision of His Father or knowledge of Himself that His human soul may not mediate.
Again it seems clear that in some degree the Incarnate exercised creative knowledge, that is, the divine knowledge peculiar to God Himself. How far a human soul can share that knowledge we could not guess, a priori, but we are clearly shewn in the Gospels that He possessed it, and in a small degree exercised it. [Cf. His miracles of power, e.g. raising the dead, healing the sick, feeding multitudes. A defence of miracles can be developed on this line of thought, but this is not the place for it.] For in no other way can we explain His activity in the restoration of the sick to health, and the dead to life; or His wonderful subjection of matter to the higher uses of man. If creative knowledge be that which knows a thing by causing it to exist, then the miraculous works of the Saviour must surely have depended upon some degree of that knowledge mediated by His human soul. "The Son can do nothing of Himself but what He seeth the Father do." [John 5:19.]
In such an endowment of the soul of Christ with wonderful powers, through the Beatific Vision, we discern the beginning of that cooperation in kingship over the universe which is the goal, and the reward of the Captain of our Salvation. [Eph. 1:19 ff.; Col 1:15-19; 2:10, 19.] And our natural difficulty in conceiving in human mind and soul any the least capacity for mediating divine, creative knowledge, grows less as we meditate upon the Incarnate in His glory ruling through His human soul the whole Church of the redeemed race of men. [Rev. 1:13 ff.; 2-3; 21.]
It will of course be objected that one who employs creative knowledge is hardly to be called true man. But, in fact, the Gospel picture of His use of that knowledge and power requires that we postulate a human soul as the very true measure of that power; and that we admit comparatively few examples of its use. The manifestations of it were so human as never to destroy the normal humanness of the Master's life, and yet sufficiently superhuman as to witness to His inner oneness with His Father.
Moreover, we ought to have expected some such reserve of power, and an occasional evidence of its presence, inasmuch as the ordinary aim of human prayer is to establish such an union between divine and human will power as to set free divine activity in human surroundings.
And the activity of the Mystic Body today, in virtue of her oneness with the Incarnate Word, certainly involves a clear manifestation of creative knowledge and power, which is no less certainly mediated, and conditioned in its activity, by the human soul of the Christ in glory, as well as by the soul of the Mystic Bride. Miracles of grace and life still bear witness to the capacity of His soul to mediate divine power, and to the capacity of His Holy Ones to cooperate with Him in His activities.
But apart from all question of His activity in supernatural works, we find in the Beatific Vision of His soul the ground of His knowledge of His mission and vocation. As His soul grew in divine knowledge, and enlarged its Vision the Incarnate Himself within Himself saw clearly what exactly His Father's will for Him involved.
And the Messianic call, like the Vocation to Calvary, was recognized within Himself, before any external circumstance announced it. His Response to Vocation is an internal response, within His soul, manifested later in act, as circumstance made necessary and possible.
It is in the Vision of His Father that He sees the future stretching out before Him; as it is in the same Vision that by prayer He constantly dwells, seeking present guidance and power.
(b) Again, it follows that the human soul of Christ possesses an intuitive knowledge, and an insight into the essence of things that is the proper fruit of the Vision of God.
This knowledge, which viewed from the side of His human nature is sometimes called infused, is then His own, because He is who He is; and the only limit to its universality lies in the capacity of His human soul to receive and express it.
That it is of a sort with the intuitive knowledge of the saints is clear; the degree of its excellence being measured by the perfection of the Christ Himself, who is the source of whatever power the Saints may receive.
And here we have the explanation of the wonderful skill of Christ in reading men's minds and sounding the depths of their hearts. [See Note VI in Appendix.]
The Christ exercised this power as God-in-manhood, being Himself the source of His soul's ability; yet His human soul is certainly the measure of His intuitive knowledge. He became man, really and truly, and possessed no intuition that His human soul could not itself use. And in the use of it, He, as man, established Himself as the source and fountain of spiritual intuition to the members of His mystic body, the Church.
(c) It remains to take account of that large part of human life of which we cannot say that it lies open to insight into the ultimate realities, or is fit subject for miraculous activity. How did the Christ meet this, the ordinary life of every day?
There can be no question that He brought to it a human mind that acted humanly; and that He acquired knowledge, as men normally do, by experience.
Consider, for example, His questions that seem to expect and require information.
At the outset it is right to say that very various explanations of our Lord's questions have been given. There is, for example, no doubt that He constantly employed questions as a means to instruction; He often tempered His rebukes by throwing them into the form of queries; and He was so naturally human as to use questions as a means for opening up or carrying on a conversation. But in the last resort there are a few questions that He asked which are not patient of any such interpretation. And I propose to discuss two or three of them with a view to establishing the truth that Christ did depend upon others for information. It is not to the point to discover how often He did so: that He did so on two or three occasions is enough for our purpose,
In the first place, then, there is the startling query, "Who touched Me?" [Mark 5:30. Luke 8:45-47.]
Our Lord's strength had just healed a woman, who had come behind Him in the crowd and touched the hem of His garment. Christ at once stopped, and demanded who it was who had touched Him. Many students say that He asked the question for the sake of the woman, He Himself knowing quite well who it was that had touched Him. They argue that He who was able to heal must have been able to know; suggesting, that is, that a special exhibition of His power through His body would necessarily be accompanied by a special exhibition of divine knowledge through His human mind. But against this view is the whole tenor of the story as told by the Evangelists. It is more than clear that the Apostles did not expect our Lord to know who had touched Him. They were surprised not at His ignorance, but at His supposing that He could find out the truth! In so large a crowd no one could be discovered who wished to conceal himself. Why, then, did the Master ask? The disciples assume that He must remain in ignorance. Surely they would, otherwise, have answered, "Master, thou knowest." But they said, "Thou seest the multitude thronging thee, and sayest thou, Who touched me?"
It seems certain that the disciples judged our Lord to be ignorant upon this point; that His ignorance did not astonish them or worry them; and that they meant to convey to us the fact of His ignorance.
In the second place there is the query: "How many loaves have ye?" [Mark 6:38.] It is said that this question is merely a means of testing the faith of the disciples or of opening up the incident. But St. John is careful to tell us that Christ tried their faith by the earlier question: "Where shall we buy bread, that these may eat?" [John 6:5, 6.] The question about the loaves is taken simply and naturally by the Apostles, and is answered by one of their number. They are not surprised at being asked for information; they do not give it as men who are acting a part. It is evident that the disciples were not accustomed to find in our Lord an exercise of superhuman knowledge such as would make His question unnecessary. Thus it seems wiser to accept the story as it stands, and to see in our Lord normal human ignorance of the number of the loaves. Had it been necessary for Him to know it then, if we assume that such knowledge could be mediated by a human mind we say that undoubtedly He would have known it.
In exactly the same way would I explain a third question, that uttered before the raising of Lazarus. "Where have ye laid him?" [John 11:34.] The Incarnate knew that Lazarus was dead by the exercise of intuitive knowledge drawn out by His love for His friend; He would raise him by an act of superhuman power for the glory of His Father; and He could measure the feelings and doubts in the hearts of Mary and Martha. But the site of the grave was a particular, human fact; an object of human experience. Therefore the Christ asked where the grave was.
Nor was any one surprised at His question. Mary and Martha had thought it necessary to inform Jesus of the sickness of their brother; they did not hesitate to warn Him about the state of the corpse in the grave; and they clearly regarded the query as to the place of the grave to be in keeping with what they knew of the Master and His powers.
This cannot, I think, be too strongly urged: the impression made by our Lord upon His disciples and friends. So far from refusing to allow one single question to be a request for information, I think the true view is that our Lord's ordinary habit of mind is strictly human. [Cf. His wonder and astonishment. Mark 6:6, 34; 7:18; 8:19; 11:22; 14:37.]
This is not difficult to explain on the theory that I am advocating. The Incarnate is God the Son conditioned in and by manhood. His divine powers are always in His possession; but the conscious exercise of them is controlled by the law of restraint which He imposed upon Himself at the moment of the Incarnation. Within the sphere of relationships that are His as Incarnate this law is valid and binding for ever. It is the self-sacrifice of the eternal Son for our sakes. And by this law the Incarnate has no possible media of self-knowledge or of the exercise of His divine powers that He cannot find in the manhood that He has assumed. These means are not of fixed content, for as the manhood grows and moves onwards to its glory its power of mediating the divine must necessarily increase. But for ever the manhood is the measure of the self-consciousness and self-manifestation of the divine Son as Incarnate.
Thus we perceive three avenues of knowledge along which the Incarnate, in His human soul, moved to the ultimate goal of His life as Man.
The Beatific Vision is His in His own personal right, and secures to Him that inner union with His Father which differentiates Him from those whom He calls His brethren. In virtue of that union He knows the purpose and goal of His life; and on occasions, marked by filial prayer, He puts forth power that involves creative knowledge.
His human soul, mediating this Vision, is enriched by an intuitive knowledge of essential realities that is the ground both of His insight and of His foresight.
And at the same time, in the ordinary matters of life, He depends for His knowledge of things, as they are related to one another and to Him as their empirical centre, upon the ordinary faculties of His human soul.
All that it is necessary to add to this account is that our natural tendency to estimate His knowledge so described as practically like our own must be checked by our realization of the difference between His knowledge who is not merely man and our knowledge, who are less than true men. For in Him the Person is divine, however self-limited; and the medium of His thought is a soul that knows no sin, and has never existed apart from the Eternal Word Incarnate; a soul, that is, of whose capacity we have no a priori measure.
V. We shall be challenged in two directions.
(1) The Messianic Vocation and the subsequent Vocation to the Cross are usually regarded as being essentially external to our Lord's self-knowledge; so that He awoke to them as men awake to vocation from above.
(2) And the confession of ignorance of the Day of Judgement, made by our Lord, requires to be reconciled with the Catholic view of His inerrancy as a teacher.
(1) The modern tendency is to measure the mind of Christ by tests that are applied to the prophetic mind in general. It is assumed that they are valid in His case as in the case of Isaiah or any modern prophet. And of course they are applicable to the human media of thought and purpose as such; but the presence in the person, possessing and using those media, of powers for which psychology has no measure or explanation renders the ordinary test insufficient, not to say invalid.
For the truth is that the Christ's Response to His Father is first internal, and then made external; it is primarily due to His Vision of the Father, not to His earthly surroundings; and because this is so, our vision of Him is now the ground and motive power of all permanent response to vocation whispered to us by external voices, or suggested by the environment with which God closes us in.
If we start with the truth that our Lord's mind is perfectly human we do well; but if we go on to postulate of that mind ordinary human results we do foolishly. For the subject, or ego, of that mind is not a man but the Eternal Word of God. That is to say, we must be cautious in applying to the mind of Christ the tests of modern psychology. It is beside the point to compare His "call" at His baptism with the startling calls given to Jewish prophets and Christian apostles, not because of a difference in the matter that in each case makes the brain, but simply because of the difference between one who is God and one who is not God. For whatever conditions and limitations the assumption of a human mind brought to the Eternal Word incarnate, it is axiomatic that He, being who He is, has an essential union with the Father that gives Him a position apart from all whom He calls brethren.
Before we may venture to write of the mind of our Lord, we must set ourselves painfully to consider what a human mind that can perceive the Beatific Vision must be like. Affirmatively we can know but little of this; yet negatively we may certainly purify our conception, and come within distance of a knowledge of perfected mental activities. With such a conception, we can then return to our study of the historic Christ with a fair chance of avoiding the present pitfalls that threaten us. It cannot be too often repeated that the Word did not take human mind in order to share our errors and to accept our darkness; He took human mind in order to dispel our darkness and carry us to the vision of Eternal Light.
To attribute our Lord's Sense of Mission to the "wave of religious expectancy stirred up by the preaching of the Baptist," [Streeter, in Foundations, p. 98.] and to speak of Him as influenced by "a special susceptibility to a religious call" induced by that wave, is to posit a likeness between us and Him, not only in mind but in person. This likeness once claimed, it seems natural to speak of His conviction that He was Lord of lords as due in some measure to the voice, or vision, that followed His baptism; [Ibid. p. 99.] and we have thus explained to us the altogether impossible statement that "to One who looked at life like this it might not seen so great a paradox that the Christ of God should be chosen from the ranks of those whose lot it is to labour and to serve." [Ibid., p. 99.]
Once adopt as premiss the exact likeness of the Christ-mind with the darkened mind of fallen man, the conclusion follows: "The historical Jesus is unable, and is conscious of inability to define Himself"; [Latimer Jackson, Eschatology of Jesus, p. 322.] or "the precise 'who and what He is,' by reason of His limitations, is beyond His power of comprehension"; [Ibid., p. 326.] and therefore "there is one claim which by no possibility could He advance, nor which, if actually advanced, could possibly be conceded; the claim to the adoring worship of His fellowmen." [Ibid., p. 319.]
(2) Our Lord's professed ignorance of the Judgement Day is startling, and has often been explained away, whilst today men build upon an ignorance so complete as to result in His deceiving Himself and His disciples concerning His second advent.
The evident meaning of His words is that as He then was, on earth, in His Incarnate relationships, His human soul was not able to receive from the Father the exact knowledge of the day and hour of the last Judgement, and therefore as Incarnate He knew it not.
We infer that a human mind, situate on earth, in the earthly order, is not adequate to apprehend a fact so far beyond its own order and sphere as is the Day of Judgement. For the Judgement Day, involving all men of every age, living and departed, did not fall within the special relations that existed between the Incarnate and creation, through His human soul, during the days of His ministry. To say that the Incarnate Lord, the Head of the mystic Body, does not today know it is to go beyond what is written; for we cannot determine a priori the limits of the capacity of His soul in glory. But there is no difficulty in accepting the statement that a human soul, living on earth in earthly conditions, cannot receive the knowledge of the exact moment in time in which the lives of opportunity of individuals and nations come to their end, meeting in the single point of completed destiny.
That He knew it in His universal relations as Logos we cannot doubt. It is possible that today His soul has received the knowledge, but it may be that it belongs essentially to the universal relations of God with His universe.
The suggestion of error, or self-deception, in our Lord's teaching about the end of the world may be considered with the general question of His inerrancy as our Revelation of Truth.
We have seen that he was dependent on information; it is a truism that He did not come to increase our general knowledge of objects that human study can explain.
But could He in fact mislead men? It seems to me that a final and decisive No is the only possible answer.
For if the Logos be the first term, both in a set of universal relations with the world, and in a set of particular, human relations with the same world in as far as it is touched by Him, it would seem to follow that whatever falls within the two sets of relations must be known to Him with an apprehension that is one and the same in its result. He could not through His divine nature see a thing black, which in His Incarnate state He knows as white. To say that He can is to posit a difference between the divine and human that makes impossible the unification of knowledge.
Thus we should rather say that while certain matters, many matters perhaps, were not within the range of the Incarnate's relations, any one matter that has come within His range must ultimately be apprehended by Him in some such sense as is congruous with its apprehension by Him in His creative relationship with it.
And therefore we cannot for a moment believe that the Incarnate ever spoke a single word, of which in His universal life as Logos He could say: "That is not exactly and finally true."
For nothing will ever make it legitimate to say that a matter was related to the Son as Incarnate as being a truth which at the same moment was related to the Son as unlimited Logos as being untrue. The unity of the person of the Word is the pledge of the infallible truth of every word He spoke.
The mind of Jesus was only Jewish in so far as the Jewish mind of His age reflected the truth. Every word that He uttered is for ever true. Human the mind was and is to this day: human, truly and completely; but whatever its limitations, whatever the measure of its ignorance, whatever the medium of its self-expression, it was and is infallibly true. We have no guarantee for the truth of the revelation of God to the saints in Heaven through the glorified Christ, which is not equally valid as a guarantee for the truth of every word He spoke on earth. The guarantee lies in the fact that He who speaks is God the Son.
We may, of course, argue concerning the extent to which He spoke parabolically, or in local idiom, or in the figurative terms of ordinary Jewish speech; we may even allow for interpolations by the Evangelists; but in the last resort, when we have arrived at a difficult saying that is clearly Christ's plain, deliberate utterance, we have no choice but to accept it as the last word upon the subject, and wait for the world to come round to His view of the matter. Some of us may feel, perhaps, that men go too far in minimizing the utterances that are to be taken as final. And all of us must at last face the choice of Christ's word or the world's wisdom. "Lord, to whom shall we go?" "I am the Truth."
VI. The fear lest the solution here suggested should imply a change in the divine nature is not well founded in fact.
For the Eternal Word Incarnate is the divine Nature. We cannot separate Him from His Nature, or His Nature from Him.
And every act of the manhood of the Christ is the personal act of the Incarnate Word, that is, of the Word-in-His-divine-Nature, and the activity of the manhood is the direct result of the Incarnate's personal activity in His divine nature. That is to say, the activity of the manhood is a continuous effect, of which the activity of the Incarnate in His divine nature is the Cause.
He thinks humanly of His Father and the world; He wills humanly to minister, to preach, to suffer, and to die; He loves humanly His friends and creatures; and in Himself, the subject who thinks, wills, and loves through a human soul, is the whole divine Nature whose activity is He Himself, the Eternal Son Incarnate.
If, then, we are driven to speak of limitations and conditions imposed upon the Word by His own will, we think not of diminution of power so much as of manifestation of a powerful Love, that can lead Him to act in human mode Godward, and Self-ward, and manward. The divine Nature is one and unchangeable, but in creation the results of its acts are separable from itself, and less in content than itself.
So also the relations set up by the Word through manhood, with God and the universe, are in fact separable from His eternal, glorious relations, and are less in content than those glorious relations; as manhood is inferior to Godhead.
Nor can we be blind to the congruity with the divine relations of the Word of God, of the new, assumed relations of the Incarnate. The divine Nature is a term of relationship with creation, a relationship that involves a certain self-limitation of God in His divine activity, that His purpose may be slowly evolved in cooperation with human weakness. Yet the divine Nature is the subject of no essential change or modification.
Behold, then, the Image of the Father's mind, the Expression of His Purpose, establishing Himself in creation as the term of a new relationship between God and man; and to that end deliberately accepting as His mode of being, in respect to these new relationships alone, the conditions proper to manhood.
That which He assumes is in essence the Father's Thought, of which He is Himself the true and perfect Image; and the resultant self-limitation is not at all an acceptance of conditions imposed from without, but rather a manifestation of a mode of life created within His own Mind, and now made articulate and evident in created form. It is clearly outside our province to determine the scope of the activity of the divine Nature of the Incarnate as He thinks and wills and acts through His human soul.
It is surely enough to lay stress upon the very real possession of the divine nature by the Incarnate, divine Will, and Mind, and Love; to emphasize the identity of the Incarnate with His own divine nature; and to remember that without the full, threefold activity of His divine nature, the Incarnate cannot live and move in manhood.
For the supreme truth is that we cannot know the Incarnate except through His manhood; and that within the state that we call the Incarnation God is only found in His manhood, God-in-manhood. And whatever in God is not mediated by manhood belongs not to the Incarnation, nor to the historic Christ; but to the universal relations of the Eternal God which are mediated by His divine nature alone.
In fact, we have to enquire how the Creator's Will and Knowledge can find expression in a created medium. The human will of Christ is the crown of all created will; it is, ideally, the cosmos in the service of the Creator, who uses the cosmos to declare His Glory, by bending it to His purpose. Hence He exercises His own proper Power, by which He wills that all shall serve Him; and at the same moment and in the same expression, through His human will, He leads the cosmos, summed up in His manhood, to accept His purpose. But since His proper Power is not separable from Himself, being in fact Himself, we actually contemplate in the Incarnate one only act of will that is separable from the Actor, and that the human act of the divine Person.
Again, the human mind of Christ is the crown of all created minds; it is His human power of relating together all that is in the universe, and giving them a unity. Whereas His divine Mind is really Himself, the Creator, as the centre of all things, their ground of unity; it is inseparable from Himself, for He is both actor and act. Thus it is His activity in His human mind that is separable from Him who acts, and that becomes an object of our thought in real distinction from His very person. And in such act we perceive the divine Person creating, humanly and for the human race, a new relation of created things that shall be our heritage down the ages.
Thus the limitation of the divine Nature in the Incarnate means no more than the measure of divine Activity necessary to the task of moulding manhood, and in manhood the whole cosmos, to the divine Purpose.
The Eternal puts forth just so much of His activity as is essential to the accomplishment of the particular work that He proposes to Himself; and, necessarily, that the work may be perfected, no such measure of activity as will make His human activity unreal or impossible. The safeguarding of the reality of His manhood is essential to the success of His plan; and the divine Activity that fulfills the plan is therefore exactly compatible with the human activity required both for perfect obedience and self-surrender, and for the production of a new source of life to the human race.
But such a limitation of divine Activity is not a new thought. For while we confess that God's Power is limited in action only by His own nature, we surely do not maintain that all expressions of that power are exactly equal in content. God's Power is God Himself, the Living Force, whose every act is exactly measured by His purpose in each particular. The only limitation to God's Activity is in the measure of His force required to fulfill His purpose at each moment.
God is unchangeable, and His Power is constant, being Himself. But that His self-expression in the force that made and moves creation is always constant in the same measure it is impossible to believe. The doctrine of the Holy Trinity itself prepares us, as for Relations within the Divine Being, so for distinctions of self-expression within creation. And the understanding that we have of creation, its growth and development, its distinctions in order and kind, supports us in refusing to assign to the self-limitation of God in the Incarnation a meaning and significance that it nowhere else bears.