Christological Confusion & China's Reforming Churches (part 12)

This is the final post in a twelve-part series on the current Christological confusion taking root in China's emerging Reformed community (see parts 12345678, and 9 and 10 and 11).


There may be ways to construe the supposed pre-existent humanity of Christ without transgressing Chalcedonian orthodoxy--Klaas Runia certainly thought Barth achieved this.[1] For this reason, among others, Reformed theologians have generally treated this view as objectionable but not, by itself, heretical.[2] Even though some of the statements reviewed in this essay are difficult to square with Chalcedon and obviously incompatible with the Reformed standards cited above, my concern here is not assessing this man's views but addressing the Christological confusion his statements are causing within Reformed circles on the mainland of China (and beyond).

Perhaps these statements do not accurately represent his views. They are imprecisely stated, somewhat speculative, and not clearly argued from Scripture. There are also layers of language involved here and at least two years has passed since these recordings were made--enough time for him to have already changed his mind.

Whatever the case may be, these statements are circulating throughout mainland China, influencing believers who are just discovering the Reformed tradition, and causing enough Christological confusion to warrant our concern. Anyone who develops their Christological views around these "two claims, . . . first, that Christ's human nature and Christ's body are uncreated; and, second, that Christ's human nature has existed from all eternity," seems certain to stray from the Chalcedonian Christology the orthodox Reformed standards consistently maintain. Jesus Christ is not a bodily manifestation of an eternal humanness hidden within God; God-incarnate is not just similar to us with respect to a range of bodily functions but consubstantial with us--just like us in every way except sin; and there is no such thing as an uncreated physical body.

Though the divine and eternal Son assuming a fully human nature, body and soul, created and finite just like ours, is a scandal, it is the glorious scandal of God's saving grace in Jesus Christ, necessary for us and our salvation.


[1] Klaas Runia, The Present-Day Christological Debate (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1984), pp. 16-21.

[2] An interesting example of this is Hodge, Systematic Theology, pp. 421-28, who treats the views of Swendenborg and Watts on this point as merely objectionable and describes the latter as undoubtedly "a devout worshiper of our Lord Jesus Christ," p. 423.