Tuesday, 22 July 2008

Christologia - Chapter 3 (pt 1). The Glory of Christ

It's been a while, but Cam and I are about to launch back into Owen's Christologia. We're up to chapter 5, which is hard work, but before we get there I thought I'd post some thoughts on chapters 3 and 4.

Chapter 3 is where Owen turns to focus on the person of Jesus as the foundation for all true religion (religion being, according to Owen, to glorify God as God). God himself is the primary foundation of all religion, but not in essence - rather God as revealed. Essentially, Owen is saying that God is only known as he is, by what he does. Therefore, God is known, or his power, wisdom, goodness is known, in creation, to a certain extent, but He is known most perfectly in the person of Christ. Not Christ as eternally generated (for this is an internal and eternal act of God), but rather Christ as incarnate. This is the mystery of godliness (1 Tim 3:16), and Owen has some wonderfully beautiful language to describe it. Some examples are needed:

But this assumption of our nature into hypostatical union with the Son of God, this constitution of one and the same individual person in two natures so infinitely distinct as those of God and man - whereby the Eternal was made in time, the Infinite became finite, the Immortal mortal, yet continuing eternal, infinite, immortal - is that singular expression of divine wisdom, goodness and power, wherein God will be admired and glorified unto all eternity.

Go on, read it again. Read it out loud. And if that doesn't make you smile and whisper prayers of praise and adoration to our gracious Father, you've got something wrong with you.

This mystery, continues Owen, has a veil drawn over it in Scripture. It is declared without being described - it is a mystery. Statements are made like john 1:14 - the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.

But what Word was this? That which was in the beginning, which was with God, which was God, by whom all things were made, and without whom was not any thing made that was made; who was light and life. This Word was made flesh, not by any change of his own nature or essence, not by a transubstantiation of the divine nature into the human, not by ceasing to be what he was, but by becoming what he was not, in taking our nature to his own, to be his own, whereby he dwelt amongst us.

This indeed, says Owen, is wisdom. However, some, he observes, say that it isn't. That if the only way by which humanity might be reconciled is by the incarnation of the divine, then there is no wisdom in it. Owen's reply is superb. 'Vain man indeed would be wise, but is like the wild ass's colt.' Owen then turns to Hebrews 1:1-3 and Isaiah 6 to see the glory of the one who was made flesh.

This, summarises Owen, is the glory of the Christian religion. This is where God might truly be worshipped. True religion, he observes, existed in the garden. Being made in the image of God, man was able to glorify God, but because this image was not 'united to himself in a personal union', it quickly fell. It required a firmer foundation - a foundation whereby the human and divine were united - permanently, perfectly, so that true worship might be offered. No 'gracious relation could be stable and permanent' unless 'our nature was assumed into personal union and subsistence with himself'. This is wonderfully true, and a helpful corrective to our (post)modern thinking about relationships in general, and our worship of God in particular. Owen is here carrying on thinking about divine-human relationships in a way which he more fully developed in Communion with God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost (published some 21 years earlier). To worship, know, and love God qua God requires being drawn into, united with, the one whom we seek to worship, know, and love. While he doesn't address it here, the work of the Holy Spirit is hugely significant here.

Owen's point, however, is the centrality of the hypostatic union to our relationship with, and true worship of, God. There was true worship post-fall, observes Owen, for the cult was revealed by God. However, it all pointed to Christ, both in promise and the outward institutions associated with it. Heb 1:1-3 again. Only in Christ, the God-man, in whom the divine has united himself with the creature, is the real foundation of true worship. In the rest of the chapter Owen will go on to describe how faith is the right response and action in light of the mystery of Godliness. But that will have to wait until tomorrow!


mark said...

I'm loving it Dave - looking forward to hearing MORE!

Roger Gallagher said...

What do "hypostatical" and "qua" mean?

Dave Clancey said...

Glad to haer that you like it, Mark. Why not try reading him yourself (although start with Communion with God, volume 2 - it's very very good).

Roger - by 'hypostatical' Owen is referring to the union bewteen the two natures of God and man in Jesus. We say hypostatic - he just threw an 'al' on the end.

Sorry about the qua! It means 'in the character of', or, 'as' - Owen is saying that God, as he is as God, or as he is in his eternal, transcendent perfection, isn't so much the ground of our worship as God in his action, God who has come close to us in Jesus. Owen is not saying there are two Gods, nor that they are somehow different from each other, but rather that our worship is directed towards God as he is towards us, rather than, what we think God is like. Worship, or religion, is always on God's terms.

mark said...

Dave, I would be keen to have a read of him actually - I recently preached on Ps130 and found his exposition to be quite extraordinary.

I couldn't quite make out what you meant by volume 2...? Is this the book you had in mind: (??)


Cheers mate,

Dave Clancey said...

Mark, you're right, volume 2 refers to Goolds (he's the editor) 16 volume collection of Owen's works, published by Banner of Truth. The paperback you link to is the same book, but I'd encourage you ($ permitting) to try and pick up the volume, for a couple of reasons.
First, it's starting to build your Owen library - one thing you'll find with him is that he refers to other stuff he's written throughout all his works - it's handy to have them there so you can see what he's refering to.
Second, vol. 2 also contains a piece called 'a brief vindication of the doctrine of the Trinity', which will be very helpful in second (and later) year of college.
Try bookfinder.com to get a second-hand copy, or rockdale Christian books (google them - they're in rockdale and occassionally have some of Owen's works. Alternatively, keep an eye out when the library ditches excess books - I've known of people who have pickedup some of his volumes there. Happy reading!