Christological Confusion & China's Reforming Churches (part 6)

This is the sixth post in a twelve-part series on the current Christological confusion taking root in China's emerging Reformed community (see part 123, 4 and 5).

Second Statement: Platonic Dualism

As noted at the end of the previous post (see part 5), his discussion of the incarnation under the distinction between human nature and humanness vaguely sounds like Origen (or Isaac Watts). Origin believed in the pre-existence of human souls and taught a two-stage incarnation of the Son, the first consisting of his union with the un-fallen human soul of Jesus from the beginning of creation and the second a union with a human body in Mary's womb. The prior union of the Son with a human soul is why, he reasons, "throughout the whole of Scripture, not only is the divine nature spoken of in human words, but the human nature is adorned by appellations of divine dignity."[1]

Our speaker makes similar claims, drawing the same conclusion about the biblical witness to humanity's "dignity and glory" prior to the incarnation.[2] Though he does not endorse the pre-existence of the human soul, his notion of humanness as the original, pre-existing form of the humanity later embodied in Jesus of Nazareth and prototype of all created humans comes close. Traditionally, the human soul (anima) is conceived as the form of the human body (forma corporis). Most Reformed theologians adopted a broadly Aristotelian interpretation of this, in which the form (soul, in this case) only properly exists in the particular thing formed (the embodied human).[3] Like Origen, however, our speaker embraces a version of Platonic dualism in which forms really exist independent of the thing formed:
Humanness is the essence within human beings, the essence by virtue of which human beings are human. This human essence has existed from all eternity, and is something within God's being that he intended to use as the gene for his creation of humankind. It is the image of God; it is the ontological being of Christ [4]
In other words, the original, pre-existing form of humanity (humanness) is not just an idea in God's mind but an actually existing thing, which he, unlike Origen, declares eternal and locates within God's being.

The implication of this for understanding the unique moment of the incarnation in Mary's womb is taken up in the next post.


[1] Origen, De Principiis, 2.6.3-5. See also Isaac Watts, "The Glory of Christ as God-man" in The Works of the Rev. Isaac Watts, vol. 6 (Leeds: Edward Baines, 1813), pp. 484-670, and the discussion of this work in Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1968), pp. 423-28.

[2] First Recording

[3] Ordinarily, form and matter are considered inseparable in this tradition. The separation of soul from body in death is a temporary, abnormal state.

[4] First Recording