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An Inquiry into the Nature of Our Lord's Knowledge as Man. By W. S. SWAYNE, M.A., Oxon. (London, 1891.) ,


In the essay which we have placed at the head of this article Mr. Swayne has attacked what is in reality the most difficult problem within the whole range of theology. It is a bold thing for a young theologian to attempt, and yet, in the opinion of those best qualified to judge, he has not been without success. The Bishop of Salisbury in his Preface says of him that he has made a manly effort to go as far into the truth as our limited human powers can go, without respect of persons or a mere counting of authorities; and that at the same time he shows a self-restraint and an absence of dogmatism which are by no means always easy for a young writer to attain.

It appears that in the spring of 1890, at the representative synod of the Diocese, the Bishop made an offer to assist the publication of a thesis upon the nature and limits (if any) of our Blessed Lord's knowledge as man. In consequence of this offer Mr. Swayne undertook the composition of the present essay, and the Bishop, appreciating its merits, and feeling that it deserved to be more widely known, has assisted in its publication, and introduced it by a Preface. From special circumstances well known to our readers, great interest has been excited on the subject of the essay. But the Bishop, recognizing the great importance of the question, is anxious to withdraw it from the excitement and bias of controversy. The question is indeed most momentous, and it is easy to see that our solution of it one way or the other will profoundly affect the view which we take of the great central doctrine of the Incarnation. Nor, indeed, that only ; for as all the doctrines of the faith are intimately connected, and VOL. XXXIII.—NO. LXV.


change in any one reacts on all the others, it will according to the view we take affect our whole Christian position. Perhaps a deeper consideration may lead us to the conclusion that the question is by us insoluble. We may be led to see that there are certain lights bearing on it given in revelation which we must hold fast; but our matured conviction, if we mistake not, will be, that the question is above us, and that we must not attempt to carry it out into a reasoned theological system or whole.

All this shows how important it is that the investigation should proceed in and for itself, and apart from the heat of controversy. And then, as the Bishop suggests, it may be so handled as to be the means of awakening an interest among the educated laity, giving them some idea of the import and living interest of theological questions, and so leading them to draw near to God with their reasoning faculties. The great doctrine of the Incarnation, of which this question is a particular aspect, is indeed one which we should think eminently qualified to awaken not only interest but even enthusiasm in every susceptible mind. It is not only the grandest conception of which the human mind is capable, but it touches human nature and appeals to the deepest feelings at every point.

It is the object of the Bishop in his Preface to free the question from a state of isolation, and to lift it up into connexion with the general doctrine of the Incarnation. After remarking that the definitions regarding the two natures in the one Person of our Lord Jesus Christ were probably carried by the Monothelite controversy as far as it was safe to go, he calls attention to the post-Reformation disputes regarding the question of the ubiquity of Christ's human nature. The Bishop has done well in thus entarging the point of view, and more especially in connecting present disputes with post-Reformation questions. We believe the connexion of the present controversy with these latter is most intimate—so intimate, in fact, that its real purport and meaning cannot be understood except in that connexion. And, this being the case, the first point to which we would direct the reader's attention is that connexion.

Many people, perhaps, may not be aware that Luther amid his other innovations introduced new elements into the doctrine of the Incarnation. Such, however, was the case; and, what is particularly noteworthy, the view that he took was in its consequences an exceedingly dangerous one. Happily, the direction of subsequent controversy was such that this new view was arrested in its development, and up to the present time, with the exception of the question of the ubiquity of Christ's human nature, has had no noteworthy result. There are, however, signs that it is now being revived and drawn out to its logical consequences; and, if we mistake not, it will be found that this question of the extent of our Lord's human knowledge is merely a step in the working out of far wider and more momentous issues. Let us first see what it was that Luther taught; and it will be convenient to accept the account given by Dorner. He says :

"A closer consideration shows that Luther made an advance upon the old Christology, inasmuch as, in the first place, he sought the bond of union of the Person of Christ, not in the Person of the Son, but in the sphere of the natures, and adduced for this end a different idea of the Divine and human nature to what had been previously advanced-namely, he recognized that they do not repel or exclude, but seek each other according to their innermost nature ; inasmuch as, secondly, he did not wish in the sphere of the Person to do homage to Monophysitism, nor to regard the humanity as impersonal ; and inasmuch as, thirdly, he acknowledged a human and true development and two states of Christ--this, of course, not without fluctuation.''

The gist of this, as it is subsequently explained by Dorner, is that Luther departed from the old faith in two particulars : (1) in regard to the union of the Divine and human in the Incarnation. He held that the union is a union of natures, or, as Dorner explains it, a unifying of the natures, the Divine and human, in Christ. In contrast with this the old faith was that the union is a unity of person; the two natures remaining each in their entirety, without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation,' in the one Person of the coeternal Son. Nothing could be more momentous than this change of view, for it led directly to a second positionviz. (2) that the Person of Christ is not the Person of the coeternal Son, but a new Personality, a tertium quid which results or, flows from the union of the natures.

We must try to draw out the significance of this change, and there is only one way of doing this—viz. pushing it to its logical consequences. We would, however, ask the reader to bear in mind that in doing so we are very far from attributing either to Luther or to any one who may take his view belief in these consequences. It would be most unfair to do so; for in theology very few minds are able to see the consequences attaching to a false tenet. . In point of fact, it is usually only in the course of ages that the consequences of

· Dorner, Christian Doctrine, iii. 224 ; Clark's Translation.

a false tenet are fully worked out, and then it is abandoned. In trying, therefore, to bring out the logical result of this tenet, we are not wishing to asperse those who hold it. We offer the reader an exercise of pure logic, not a philippic; and we do so because in theology this is the only proper procedure. In theology the only test of the truth of a tenet is its accordance with facts. There are in the Bible and in the traditional faith of the Church a multitude of facts bearing on the Saviour of mankind, and the question is, how does this view of the Incarnation square with them?

In the first place, it is easy to see how this new view alters the meaning of the old theological formula, the communicatio idiomatum. The purport of this formula as understood by Catholic theologians is succinctly stated by the Bishop of Salisbury. It is to the effect that attributes or acts which belong properly to one nature may be predicated of the other nature, provided that the subject in the predication is not the other nature viewed abstractly, but the concrete Person of the coeternal Son. Thus we can say that God died for us on the Cross, whereas it would be untrue to say the Godhead died. From this point of view we see that the communicatio idiomatum in its proper and Catholic sense is merely a logical rule for the understanding in thinking and speaking of the Incarnate Son. But, as the Bishop has pointed out, it is much more, taken in its Lutheran sense. It then means an actual communication of some of the Divine attributes to the human nature. The attribute which the Lutherans especially insisted upon as being communicated to the humanity of Christ was omnipresence ; and on this they based their doctrine of the Real Presence of Christ's Body and Blood in the Sacrament. But it is easy to see that logic requires a great deal more. If the Incarnation is a unifying of the two natures, all the Divine attributes, as the Bishop has shown, would require to be communicated. Not only omni. presence, omniscience, and omnipotence, but eternity, infinity, and impassibility, must become properties of Christ's human nature. Nor would logic stop here. If the Divine attributes are communicated to the human nature, it would logically follow that the human attributes must be communicated to the Divine.

Thus we have a complete breakdown. And what we have especially to note is that all this logically and necessarily follows out of the primary error into which Luther fell in viewing the Incarnation as a union of natures instead of a unity of Person. If the union between God and man in the

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