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harrowing-of-hadesI’ve been watching the recent exchanges in the comments boxes between Struans and C451 with interest, not least since they seem to draw us back to basics. When I say I believe that Jesus rose from the dead, that is what I believe it. I believe it because the New Testament tells me it was so, and this was the faith of the early Church, as it remains the faith of all orthodox Christians now. When I was a youngster there was still the fashion about for Frazer’s Golden Bough, or at least its afterglow, which saw Christianity in the context of comparative religion. At College it was fashionable to explain that there’d been no actual resurrection, the Disciples had, we were told, experienced a spiritual resurrection, and it was that which inspired them; we should, we were told, refer to Paul’s experience, which, the Chaplain assured us, was what had happened to the Disciples.

My problem with that was that it matched neither what St Paul had written, nor the thrust of the Gospel account; neither did it match what went into the Creed. Paul was plain enough: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain. Paul goes on at length about the people who had seen Jesus after He rose again, and does so in the context of a letter where he is talking about the resurrection of the body. St John put the matter to rest in his Gospel where Thomas puts his hands into Christ’s wounds.  Docetism has, nonetheless, persisted – that is the belief that Jesus only appeared to be human. It has taken various forms, but all of them have in common a separation of the Divinity and the humanity of Jesus. This was at stake in the early crises we call Arian and Nestorian.

Equally, as an excellent post I read earlier today put it, the Trinity is also essential:

 (1) God cannot give us in salvation that which he doesn’t possess.
(2) What is not adopted is not healed.
(3) The salvation of humanity is finally achieved through participation in God’s being and life (2Pet 1.4).

The author, Tom Belt, offers a rather good definition of ‘salvation’:

Working backwards from (3), human salvation isn’t the achieving of a legal status granted by divine fiat. It is in the end nothing less than the perfection of our natures, our actually becoming, in relationship to God, all that he intended us to be. God saves us not by a wave of the divine wand and simply declaring it to be so. We are finally saved/perfected in union with God, in relationship to him whose own existence and life achieve and ground the abiding perfection of our natures.

That seems a very good one to me. So Christ has to have been fully-human and fully-divine – just as the Church has taught. We are not wiser in our time than the Fathers were in their own – we just know a bit more – if not as much as we think we do.