"That Which Is Not Assumed Is Not Healed": A Dogmatic Response to Recent Formulations of the Son's Assumption of a Fallen Human Nature
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This dissertation contends that those who argue for the Son’s assumption of a fallen human nature are mistaken, because they work with a faulty notion of the nature of the hypostatic union, or revert Trinitarian order, or work with a defective notion of original sin. By retrieving the Thomistic categories of grace of union and habitual grace, together with the Patristic notion of inseparable operations, and the Post-Reformed theology of original sin, I show that the formulations that assert that the Son assumed a fallen human nature are out of step with faithful biblical, theological, and historical articulations. The chosen conversation partners are Karl Barth and Thomas Torrance. After the introduction, chapters 2 and 3 interact with these major influencers of twentieth- century theology and their proposals for Christ’s assumption of a fallen human nature. Chapter 4 will starts the constructive part of the dissertation. After surveying some initial articulations and developments of the doctrine of inseparable operations, most of the argument depends on scholastic distinctions of real relations, missions and acts, and visible and invisible missions. Such distinctions allow one to understand what exactly “assuming” means and its relevancy for the moral status of Christ’s human nature. Chapter 5 discusses the relationship of grace and nature as they relate to the incarnation. The entry point into this section will be the somewhat recent Roman Catholic kerfuffle over the existence of pure nature. Interacting with Herman Bavinck’s work, I argue that although Bavinck’s conception that grace is only opposed to sin and not nature is correct, some scholastic distinctions on the relationship of grace and nature in the incarnation are helpful. Here, I appeal to grace of union and habitual grace. Through a robust notion of how the Son’s human nature is actually sanctified, one can avoid the errors of those who propose Christ’s assumption of a fallen nature. In a way, this chapter is borrowing some conceptual apparatus from chapter 4. Since I clarify that created reality does not contradict God’s inner order, then I will argue that proposing an assumption of fallen nature needs to suppose that habitual grace is occurring “before” the actual personal union. Chapter 6 is on the doctrine of original sin. Although the doctrine has major developments in the early church, the focus of this chapter is on Calvin and developments of the doctrine of original sin after the Swiss Reformer. After discussing a recent interpretation of Calvin’s doctrine of original sin, I propose a via media between this recent interpreter and some other established scholars. Nonetheless, Calvin’s doctrine still needed some development. And again, with the assistance of Herman Bavinck’s organic motif, I show how federal headship avoids not only the charge of arbitrariness in the transmission of sin, but also avoids the assumption of a fallen nature in Christ.