Monday, 12 August 2013

The Death of Christ Means Everything!

So, it's been a while, hasn't it? There are a few reasons I haven't blogged in a while, most of those having something to do with the fact that my health has not been the greatest of late. I've been spurred to blog again by this article, written by Islamic apologist Ijaz Ahmad, responding to remarks by Protestant apologist, James White. The article deals with one of the most important topics imaginable, the death of Christ.

For those unfamiliar with some of the relevant theology the Catholic belief, shared by Protestants and most of the Eastern Churches, is that Christ is one person but with two natures, these natures being the divine and the human. A less formal way of saying this, might be that in Jesus, there are two what's (God and human) but one who (the God-man Jesus Christ). It's important to understand that these natures were not, somehow mixed together, the divine nature remains eternally divine and the human nature is fully human, but these natures are united in a single person.

It is also important to understand that, according to Catholic belief (and again this Catholic belief is shared by protestants and others) the death of Christ was a death that affected the human nature, that is to say that His human soul was separated from His body. However, and this is absolutely crucial, while the death effected His human nature, it is not a nature which dies but a person. In this case, the person who died was God. Therefore, while the divine nature was not directly effected by the death, it is theologically accurate to say that, when Jesus died on the cross, God died.

It has to be said, Ahmad does a poor job of understanding this basic Christian teaching.

Ahmad quotes from The Catholic Encyclopedia, as distinguishing three, position, the Catholic, Nestorian and Monophysite views on the incarnation. I found it annoying that he did not tell us which article in said encyclopaedia (or even which edition) he was citing; doing so would have made it easier to check the context of his citation. He then tells us that in this context “Catholic” means “Trinitarian Christian.” This is quite wrong, both Nestorians and Monophysite's were Trinitarians as well; their heresies don't touch on the question of the Trinity.

Ahmad continues to write: “Christ has two natures, his divine nature known as the Son and his human nature known as the flesh and blood of the Christ. If he died a physical death and this what is being claimed, then the flesh and blood of Christ died, that is the human nature died.”

This is very wide of the mark. “The Son” is not a name of the divine nature but of the whole person. The Bible affirms in numerous places that the man, Christ is the Son of God (Mark 15:39 being a good example). Further, the human nature is not merely flesh (that would be a variant of the ancient heresy of Apollinarianism) but a fully human soul as well.

Once this misunderstanding is made clear, much of Ahmad's argument can be seen to be off-base. For example, his claim that, since only the human nature died, John 3:16 is disproven, since the Son, he thinks, does not die, is shown to be a radical misunderstanding.

Also, Ahmad's claim that death would mean the breakup of the union between God and man are shown to be based on a misunderstanding. At death, the human soul separated from the human body but this involved no separation between the divine and human natures and only Ahmad's failure to grasp actual Catholic teaching obscures this.

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