Christological Confusion & China's Reforming Churches (part 5)

This is the fifth post in a twelve-part series on the current Christological confusion taking root in China's emerging Reformed community (see part 1, 2, 3, and 4).

Confusing Claims About Christ's Humanity

Turning to the confusion in East Asia, our brother affirms "the Son came into the world to be a human being" and "truly became human." Becoming human, he explains, is unique to the Son "since the Father and the Spirit never came into the world to be incarnate." Also, "the Son who became human was originally the Logos, and this Logos became Logos ensarkos, Word-in-flesh."[1]

It is difficult to know just what becoming human amounts to, however, since he also "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."[2]  On the surface, these two assertions seem impossible to square with the Christology of the ecumenical and Reformed standards cited above (see parts 3 and 4). In defending these statements, he admits they "completely contradict" views held by "the so-called ancient catholic church" and "many of the so-called great Reformers."[3]  Yet, he also suggests "this great controversy is a matter of terminology and definitions" and claims "my terminology is different from the terminology and definitions that others use."[4]

First Statement: Human Nature & Humanness

Idiosyncratic uses of long-established theological terms do tend to complicate matters. He attempts to redefine a standard Chinese term for human nature (人性, rénxìng), for example, in order to distinguish between human nature (or humanity) in some broad sense and a special sort of human nature he calls, in English, "man-ness" (and for clarity's sake I will call humanness).[5]

Humanness, he explains, "is different from the [concept of] human nature . . . inherited from the history of theology and from ancient church tradition;" it is the "formal cause" or "original form of human nature."[6] As such, humanness refers to the uncreated and eternal "prototype" of humanity that, "before the creation of the world, . . . was already within God."[7] This original form, he concludes, is the image of God who is Jesus Christ.

Human nature, on the other hand, is what individual humans possess by being created in the likeness of the prototype--in the image of God. Prior to creation, he states, "Christ was already in possession of an original and eternal form of human nature [that is, humanness], and then after he came into the world, he came to possess an incarnate human nature, the nature of a human body."[8] The Son, then, who is eternally human in one sense (humanness), apparently became human in another sense in the incarnation by assuming a physical human body.

This vaguely sounds like Origen's broadly platonic view of the incarnation, which is the subject of the next post.


[1] First Recording.

[2] Second Recording.

[3] Second Recording.

[4] First Recording. He returns to this point to open the Third Recording.

[5] First Recording. Since he is obviously speaking about something that pertains to humanity, male and female, rendering his peculiar sense of 人性 (rénxìng) as humanness seems better.

[6] Original form could also be translated as formal cause. The speaker uses 因 (yīn), which is often translated as cause, but here has the sense of formal cause.

[7] Third Recording.

[8] Third Recording.