Project Canterbury

The One Christ
An Enquiry into the Manner of the Incarnation

By Frank Weston

London and New York: Longmans, Green and Co., 1914.

Chapter XV--Conclusion

We have come to the end of our task. We started with the question, Who is the true subject of the Manhood of the Incarnate, and what is the content of His ego? And we have found reason for the answer that the manhood of Jesus Christ is the medium of certain new relations established between the Eternal Word of God and His creatures; relations that involve an initial act of will upon His part within those universal relations that constitute His glory, together with a permanent acquiescence in the consequences of His assumption of manhood's conditions. This permanent acquiescence requires His acceptance of a measure to His personal activity that is determined by the capacity of the manhood that He assumed. But His acceptance of this measure is to be explained not as a self-abandonment, nor as a limitation that implies loss of power, but rather as a mighty work of divine love, analogous with all those mighty works of His that make up creation.

We postulated the distinction between the eternal, universal relationships of the Son of God, and the new, particular relationships that make up the world of the Incarnate and His redeemed people. In the former sphere we found all the unlimited activities of the eternal Son for all time, activities from which He has never ceased; and among them we found the promulgation of the law of self-emptying which He imposed upon Himself: the law of self-restraint that was to make possible the second set of relationships, the sphere of the Incarnation.

Within the sphere of the Incarnation we found the eternal Son living under that law of self-restraint, by which the limits of His manhood at every moment are constituted as the limits of His consciousness and freedom as Incarnate Son of God. We saw Him unconscious of any self that is too great to be mediated by the human soul that He had joined to Himself; He Who is God, possessing all the attributes of God, lives entirely and utterly under conditions of manhood. Apart from His manhood He has no existence as Incarnate, although all the while He lives and reigns in the eternal sphere as the unlimited Word of the Father.

We saw Him incarnate: the unborn Babe, the little Child, the Boy in His mother's home, the Youth in Joseph's workshop, the Man in His ministry of mercy. It was no gradual incarnation that we saw: for the very orderliness of the development of Christ's consciousness proved how truly and utterly He had become man at the first moment of His conception in Mary's womb.

We noted in action the divine powers, conditioned always in and mediated by His manhood; until finally we saw Him conquer in our name and in our nature the enemies of our race, Death and Satan.

Finally, we watched the Incarnate pass to His glory: and we saw the wonder of the glorification of the manhood in which He lives before God for evermore.

II. In all this we followed faithfully the evidence of the Scriptures, interpreted within the limits set by the decrees of the Catholic Church. In no case have we transgressed a dogmatic ruling of the Church, or refused to allow for a fact recorded in the Gospels.

It is true we have dared to differ from the actual statements of some teachers; but not as rejecting any one of the principles of Catholic Christology. We have taken their fundamental axioms and postulates, and have gone a little further along the road of explanation than they themselves had reached.

The chief differences are these--

(1) We have given reasons for confining all the activities of the unlimited Word to the sphere of His eternal, universal relations; whereas the usual view is to find Him in His freedom within the state of the Incarnation. Any disadvantage that might seem to follow upon this view we have obviated by shewing that there is no real wall of separation between the universal and incarnate states. All that under the old view the Christ receives from His divine nature is provided for in our theory.

(2) We have suggested as the measure of the Incarnate's consciousness and power His manhood, flawless, sinless, perfectly developed, and always united with the eternal Son. Whereas the usual view is to allow for two measures in the Incarnate: one which is that of His pre-incarnate state, by which He acts as God unlimited although incarnate; and one which is His as man. Thus we have found a conception of the One Christ which the old view failed to do.

(3) We have based the self-restraint of the Incarnate Son upon an act of will which He made as the unlimited word of the Father: an act once made and never to be altered; whereas the usual view is that His self-restraint is due to a series of acts within the sphere of His Incarnation.

We do not, of course, in any degree disguise the truth that at each moment the Incarnate personally, and therefore in His divine will, accepted the inevitable consequences of the initial act of self-surrender. Our point is that by an initial Act of Will the Logos determined to enter upon manhood, and to face to the uttermost all the consequences of that Act.

These are the chief differences. The basis of the theory is the Christology of the Church: and its issues are entirely Catholic. But on the points that have been specified, we are liable to be called to account. Our plea is that these points in which we have dared to suggest some development have never been made the matter of definition by the Church: and that there is nothing in our solution of the problem that brings us under the ban even of St. Cyril's very wide condemnation of heresies. [His twelve anathemas. See Heurtley's De Fide et Symbolo, pp. 196 ff.]

Of the difficulty in conceiving of the one Christ as we have tried to write of Him notice has been taken, and analogies have been suggested to make the theory easier. But in the last resort we must leave much unexplained; and fall back upon the love and power of our God whose life is love and the expression of love. In any case there is no more difficulty in this theory than in any other view of the manner of the Incarnation.

III. It remains to suggest some lines of thought along which we can arrive at an estimate of the potential value of such a conception of the Christ as we have tried to express.

First, there is new light to be found in it to illustrate the meaning of the extension of the Incarnation in the Church and Sacraments. If it be true that God in manhood is alone intelligible to us, that apart from His manhood the Christ can neither be conscious of Himself nor be the Teacher of the human race; if it be true that for evermore manhood is the measure of God's self-revelation, and the way of approach to the Father; then we can better grasp the importance of the Church as the family of which the Incarnate is the head; as the circle of which Christ is the centre. And thus we come to see the meaning of the Sacraments as relating us to God in manhood. Unsacramental religion loses its meaning, undogmatic teaching its justification, just in the measure that we appreciate the place of the manhood in the Incarnate's life Godward.

For the special relations set up by the Eternal Word when He became incarnate are extended through the family of men and women who form His Mystic Body, the Church. Through their natures, made one with His, and through their persons, surrendered to Him, He acts upon His creation; and in a quite special and official sense through those whom He has chosen to be His ministerial agents.

And in the sacraments that He has created we perceive a still wider extension of the same relations; with a view to the unification within Himself not of humanity only, but of the universe.

The Episcopate and Priesthood, the Church and Sacraments are in fact the media of a wide extension of those relations that began in Mary's womb, and remain for ever grounded in His human nature who reigns in heaven, Son of Mary, our High Priest, God, blessed for evermore.

Again, the theory for which I plead does most successfully meet the modern craving for a realization of the humanity of our Saviour, without in any way surrendering the truth of His deity. For it most clearly exhibits Him as God in manhood: truly God, but God entirely conditioned in and by manhood. While becoming man, God raised manhood to a level otherwise unknown to us, yet it is a human level: the level on which sinless, God-aided manhood can live and work; the level to which we hope to attain in Christ in the day of the restoration of all things.

Thus our theory is at once a corrective and an inspiration to those who are in danger from modern humanitarian views. It recalls them to a true conception of manhood's limits and needs ; while it opens out vast possibilities for the manhood that is one with that of the Christ.

In short, the One Christ, true God and true Man, God in manhood, God self-conscious in manhood, is seen to be the one true centre of the human race, and its only link with the Father of all men. To Him alone social aspiration may be directed, as it is in Him alone that individual re-creation can be found.

These thoughts are on the surface of the theory. We refer to them not in justification of what we have said; although after all a tree may be valued for its fruit. Rather we desire to bear our witness to the love of the Father who has devised this way for His banished to return to Him; and to record our conviction that no doctrine of the Incarnation is adequate to the task of comforting the broken heart of humanity that does not offer us a human heart which is exactly the Heart of God Himself.

For the Heart of God is all His love that can be revealed to and received by the heart of man. The heart of the Incarnate is God's love in the measure of man's need and man's capacity, as it is also man's love in the measure that God can, by assuming it, make it worthy of His own acceptance.

This is the Gospel of comfort, of strength; and it is the picture of the human heart of God pierced by sin that makes sinful man realize both his own guilt and the possibilities of the power of God in manhood.

The Passion gains a deeper meaning as we learn to see in the Incarnate no consciousness of a self that could not suffer; just as our hope of attaining perfection is increased as we gaze upon that manhood of the Christ which for evermore has a necessary place in the relations of the Incarnate to His Father.

This is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes.

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