Thursday, February 4, 2010
Thomas Morris - The Logic of God Incarnate
I came across this book lately which attempts to defend an orthodox understanding of Jesus as having two natures, but also the unity of his person. The author was a professor at Notre Dame for fifteen years in philosophy, and now is involved in practical ethics in workplaces it seems, if I understand correctly. And he delves into removing the charge against Christian theists that the incarnation is not coherent (divine and human). Some important distinctions are made on Jesus as God (being God), but not God 'simpliciter,' according to Chalcedonian historic orthodoxy. What does that mean? That is to say I am guessing from this, that when you talk of God, we also mean the Father, and Holy Spirit as well. So God is not exhausted by only one person of the Trinity, but all three persons are God. One God, three persons; though he doesn't spell this out. He also explores the use of the 'indiscernability principle' to talk of how to distinguish divine and human properties of a nature. There are good answers on how to discuss such a topic, though I didn't follow his argument entirely or agree entirely at points with how he approaches this (heavy philosophy can at times make you want to stick closer to Scripture than men's 'solutions' lol). However, Morris profitably eliminates a series of mistakes that have been made in church history by those who didn't understand the Trinity very well, including the mistakes of a one nature Son (made by Leigh in Morris' view who argues that there is a plausible new one nature). Then he deals with mistakes made by those who see problems with Jesus having said to have existed before Herod's day. Morris considers and rejects process theology (thankfully), but also considers that the Anselmian arguments for God's existence are useful for pointing out a way to explain the Doctrine of how the Incarnation of the Son could take place. This book was a serious read, and includes use of logic. I'm not sure if everyone reading would enjoy such a book or want to navigate its waters. However, it is a good thought experiment and helped me to be a more aware reader when it comes to issues related to current discussion on the Incarnation in contemporary challenges of our culture. He seems to also like/support a social Trinity view, but holds that one need not be a social Trinity committed person to agree with points he makes in defending orthodoxy. I agree that the book does that well at times, but then other times, I wondered if he capitulates too much to worldly philsophical or cultural assumptions. It must be remembered that the church need not bow down to the world's philosophical ideas that are 'popular' in one day or another. One more minor thought in passing, if its of use to anyone who might happen to read such a book as this, I personally found his discussion of psychological explanations for epistemic (how we know what we know) possibility of Jesus being tempted weren't all that helpful or certain. It seemed like uncharted territory, so that I would be hestitant to agree with some statements. However, at other times he is clearer that historic views on Jesus are the way to go. And that is true, philosophy can only get us so far on such an issue where we must stick close to Scripture. And one final thought, I wouldn't recommend the book to the average reader. The biggest issue I had with it was his multiple incarnation talk related to possible worlds (a popular idea in philosophy, but not my view at all). He doesn't say they exist, but leaves the door open, seemingly because science has shown that man isn't the center of God's creation in his opinion. But that is hardly an argument against one Incarnation, as the earth could be anywhere God wants it in the universe and still God's crowning creation is humankind. To delve into discussions of possible worlds beyond seemed too sci fi for my tastes. Not to mention that Colossians 1 seems to indicate clearly there is one Christ over all creation, and verse 19 there refers to one cross. Hence as I heard someone say recently, we serve a Christ who is over the cosmos (he used the phrase 'cosmic' Christ, i.e. not just for us, but over all the universe). But still, I am glad I'm more aware of what I might encounter out there in discussions on the street, especially with avid readers, college, graduate students or professors.