Dedicated to the devotional, exegetical and philosophical study of theological paradox in Conservative, Thoroughly Biblical, Historically Orthodox, Essentially Reformed theology . . . to the glory of God alone!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

A.A. Hodge on the Mystery of Incarnation

My mother-in-law was going to give me a $25 gift certificate to Redeemed Books, a used Christian bookstore in Springfield, MO with quite a large inventory. As I happened to be going there yesterday to shop for some gifts, she said, "Just pick up $25 worth of books for yourself and put it on our account." Nice! Pre-buying theology books for my own Christmas gift. What could be better? Here's what I got:
1. The Cross of Christ by John Stott
2. The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination by Loraine Boettner
3. Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine by A.A. Hodge
A.A. Hodge of Princeton
Each of them is a treasure, but I have found Hodge's book especially insightful. His writing style is direct and pointed, and every paragraph is laden with useful insights. Following are a few excerpts from his chapter on the Person of Christ:
"It is the grand distinction of Christianity that all its doctrines and all its forces centre in the Person of its Founder and Teacher. . . . the entire system, from foundation to superstructure, rests upon and derives its life from the Person of its Founder. The question of questions is what he was, rather than what he taught." (p. 184)
"The Person of the incarnate God is unique. His birth has had no precedents and his existence no analogy. He cannot be explained by being referred to a class, nor can he be illustrated by an example. The Scriptures, while clearly and fully revealing all the elements of his Person, yet never present in one formula an exhaustive definition of that Person, nor a connected statement of the elements which constitute it and their mutual relations. The impression is all the more vivid because it is made, as in a picture, by an exhibition of his Person in action - an exhibition in which the divinity and humanity are alike immediately demonstrated by the self-revelation of their attributes in action; and this unique personality, as it surpasses all analogy, also transcends all understanding. The proud intellect of man is constantly aspiring to remove all mysteries and to subject the whole sphere of existence to the daylight of rational explanation. Such attempts are constantly ending in the most grotesque failure. Even in the material world it is true that omnia exeunt in mysterium ["everything comes out to mystery"]. If we cannot explain the relation which the immaterial soul sustains to the organized body in the person of man, why should we be surprised to find that all attempts to explain the intimate relations which the eternal Word and the human soul and body sustain to each other in the Person of Christ have miserably failed?" (pp. 185-186)
"And undoubtedly we freely admit just here that in the constitution of the Person of the God-man lies the, to us, absolutely insoluble mystery of godliness. How is it possible that the same Person can be at the same time infinite and finite, ignorant and omniscient, omnipotent and helpless? How can two complete spirits coalesce in one Person? how can two consciousnesses, two understandings, two memories, two imaginations, two wills, constitute one Person? All this is involved in the scriptural and Church doctrine of the Person of Christ. Yet no one can explain it. The numerous attempts made to explain or to expel this mystery have only filled the Church with heresies and obscured the faith of Christians."  (p. 187)
"There is one obvious respect in which the doctrines of the Trinity and of the Person of Christ agree, and one in which they no less obviously differ. They agree in that both alike utterly transcend all experience, all analogy, and all adequate grasp of human reason. But they differ in that, while the mystery of the Trinity is that one Spirit should exist eternally as three distinct Persons, the mystery of the person of Christ is that two distinct spirits should for evermore constitute but one Person. If you give due attention to the difficulties involved in each of these divinely revealed doctrines, you would be able a priori to anticipate all possible heresies which have been evolved in the course of history. All truth is catholic [i.e. universal or comprehensive]; it embraces many elements, wide horizons, and therefore involves endless difficulties and apparent inconsistencies. The mind of man seeks for unity, and tends prematurely to force a unity in the sphere of his imperfect knowledge by sacrificing one element of the truth or other to the rest. This is eminently true of all rationalists. They are clear and logical at the expense of being superficial and half-orbed. Heresy . . . means an act of choice, and hence division, the picking and choosing a part, instead of comprehensively embracing the whole of the truth. Almost all heresies are partial truths - true in what they affirm, but false in what they deny." (pp. 190-191)
"I adore a Christ who is absolutely one - who is at the same time pure, unmixed, unchanged God, and pure, unmixed, unchanged man - and whose Person, it its wholeness and its fulness, is available throughout all space and throughout all time to those who trust him and love his appearing." (p. 200)
A.A. Hodge, Evangelical Theology: Lectures on Doctrine, Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976 (first published 1890), bolding and bracketed portions mine.
Note that he practically states the THEOparadox thesis in the fourth excerpt. We in the Reformed/Calvinistic tradition in this day need to heed Hodge's wise words forewarning us against the creeping rationalism that would deny one truth in order to affirm another. This Christmas, enjoy the blessed paradox of our wonderful Savior in His mysterious incarnation - fully God and fully man.
Now, where did I put those t-shirts?

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