Periodical Reviews -- By: Anonymous
Bsac 162:645 (Jan 2005) p. 111
By The Faculty and Library Staff of Dallas Theological Seminary
Robert D. Ibach, Editor
“Did Christ Have a Fallen Human Nature?” By Oliver Crisp, International Journal of Systematic Theology 6 (July 2004): 270-88.
Crisp argues that “it is not possible to make logical sense of the notion that Christ’s humanity was fallen” (p. 70). This issue arises when theologians wrestle with the relationship between the Incarnation and the Atonement. Some argue that Christ needed to share human nature in order to accomplish redemption, and since human nature is fallen, then it would seem that He must have assumed a fallen human nature. If that conclusion is problematic (and Crisp argues that it is), then one rightly questions whether Christ could accomplish redemption through a human nature that is different.
Crisp demonstrates that the classic doctrine of original sin understood “fallenness” to include both inherited corruption and inherited guilt. Since it would be unorthodox to argue that Christ was born with inherited guilt, it has been suggested that Christ assumed a nature that included corruption, but not guilt. Crisp argues that this suggestion is inadequate, for the possession of corruption is itself “loathsome in the sight of God” (p. 280). Since “part of the very notion of fallenness is that a person who is fallen is sinful in some way” (p. 281), Crisp rejects completely the idea that Christ possessed a fallen human nature. His own suggestion, one he regards as Augustinian, is that Christ “takes on the infirmities of fallen human nature, but did not take on the condition of fallenness” (p. 288).
Crisp’s argument seems to be consistent with the idea that Christ came “in the likeness of sinful flesh” (Rom. 8:3). However, Crisp seems not to say enough about the way Christ “shared in their humanity” (Heb. 2:14), for he stops short of explaining how one may affirm both the sinlessness of Christ and the Chalcedonian formula that He possessed a human nature.
A simple solution to the problem may be found in a more nuanced understanding of human nature. Human nature is best described as something all persons hold in common (rather than each person having “a human nature”). It consists of all that properly belongs to humans, collectively distinguishing them from other beings and things. These features, as a set, distinguish humans from the features other creatures typically hold in common.
Humans collectively incurred guilt through Adam’s sin. However, human nature as such did not change....
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