Christ As The Unity Of God And An Individual Human Being

Having introduced the possibility of offence at Christ, Anti-Climacus enters into a fuller exposition of this distinctively Christian category, which brings us to the heart of his paradoxical view of the incarnation: 'Offence is essentially related to the composite [Sammensxtningen] of God and human being (Menneske), or to the God-human being [Gud-Mennesket]', who is 'the unity of God and an individual human being [et enkelt Menneske]', not God and man or the human race (PC 81-2, translation modified; cf. SV1 xii. 79). Theologically, this is the main bone of contention between Anti-Climacus and the speculative Christologies of his time, which in his view are not Christian but another expression of the ancient pagan claim of kinship between God and humanity. Anti-Climacus does not mention any speculative thinkers in particular who are guilty of this modern confusion, which in his estimation is 'far more dangerous' than the fallacies of interpretation in the early period of Christendom, but there are several candidates who fit the description in one way or another (123).

The first candidate is Hegel, who affirms an implicit unity of divine and human nature on the basis of the principle of identity or the unity of thought and being.24 This implicit unity comes to consciousness in humanity 'in such a way that a human being appears to consciousness as God, and God appears to it as a human being'.25 But for Hegel it is essential that the consciousness of this divine-human unity, which is known philosophically in the form of thought, be brought forth for humanity in the form of sense certainty, that is, as an immediate sensible intuition that can be perceived. It was therefore necessary for God to appear in the world in the flesh, and for the sake of sense certainty, which cannot perceive the thought of humanity, to appear in 'just one human being'.26 This person is Jesus Christ, the God-man, whom Hegel recognizes as being 'a monstrous compound [ungeheure Zusammensetzung] that directly contradicts both representation and understanding [Verstand]'—which is the closest he comes to the notion of paradox.27 As mediator of the divine-human unity however, the idea of the God-man stands in need of mediation itself. For Hegel, this occurs religiously through the death of Christ, socio-culturally through the formation and subsistence of the community of faith, and philosophically through the higher comprehension of reason (Vernunft).28 Hegel thus agrees with Anti-Climacus that the God-man appeared in the form of an individual human being, but for him the incarnation is not

24 Hegel (1984-7: iii. 312; cf. Hodgson (2 0 05: 156-74). 25 Hegel (1984-7: iii. 312).

26 Ibid. 313. 27 Ibid. 315. 28 Ibid. 322-47; see also Taylor (1980).

unique or limited to Christ, since it represents the historical process of the reconciliation of humanity as such with the divine.

Another candidate is the Danish speculative theologian Martensen. While affirming that Christ 'can indeed be said to have descended from heaven and thereby has a supernatural character', Martensen follows Schleiermacher in viewing Christ as the Second Adam, 'the first perfect creation of human nature' and 'the holy root which invisibly bears the entire human race' and is its 'purest and most noble flower'.29 But Martensen's Hegelian roots are still evident as he goes on to state: 'One must, to be sure, maintain the fact of the incarnation, but doing so, one must not forget that this fact has as its presupposition the originally existing, eternal unity of divine and human nature.'30 On this basis Martensen argues that the incarnation is the mediation of the divine and the human, which invalidates the principle of contradiction or law of the excluded middle in Christian theology, whose task in his view 'has always been to grasp the identity of what is contradictory for the understanding'.31 He thus concludes: 'The central point of Christianity—the doctrine of Incarnation, the doctrine of the God-man—shows precisely that Christian metaphysics cannot remain in an either/or, but that it must find its truth in the third which this law excludes.'32 The 'third' of which he speaks, of course, is the mediation of speculative theology and philosophy. Like Hegel, Martensen also holds that 'the union of the divine and human natures demands realization in an actual personality'.33 Thus we must continue to look elsewhere for a speculative thinker who denies Anti-Climacus's fundamental claim that the incarnation is the unity of God and an individual human being.

That person is David Friedrich Strauss, the left-wing Hegelian whose seminal work The Life of Jesus Critically Examined (1835) caused a stir not only in German biblical and theological circles but also in Denmark and elsewhere. Strauss's critique of the New Testament gospels radically undermined the historical character of the Christian faith by exposing the presence of many mythical elements in the biblical narratives about the life of Jesus. In the 'Concluding Dissertation' of this work he also takes into consideration the dogmatic import of the life ofJesus, reviewing and critiquing the history of Christology from its orthodox formulation to the present age. This leads him to pose the following questions: 'is not the idea of the unity of the divine and human natures a real one in a far higher sense, when I regard the whole race of mankind as its realization, than when I single out one man as such a realization? is not an incarnation of God from eternity,

29 Martensen (2004: 592; 1866: 259); cf. Schleiermacher (1956: 62-5, 367-8, 389).

30 Martensen (2004: 596); cf. Martensen (1866: 258).

31 Martensen (2004: 588). 32 Ibid. 33 Martensen (1866: 261).

a truer one than an incarnation limited to a particular point of time.'34 Strauss then goes on to state:

This is the key to the whole of Christology, that, as subject of the predicate which the church assigns to Christ, we place, instead of an individual, an idea; but an idea which has an existence in reality, not in the mind only, like that of Kant. In an individual, a God-man, the properties and functions which the church ascribes to Christ contradict themselves; in the idea of the race, they perfectly agree. Humanity is the union of the two natures—God become man, the infinite manifesting itself in the finite, and the finite spirit remembering its infinitude; ...It is Humanity that dies, rises, and ascends to heaven, for from the negation of its phenomenal life there ever proceeds a higher spiritual life ...By faith in this Christ... that is, by the kindling within him of the idea of Humanity, the individual man participates in the divinely human life of the species.35

It is here, I submit, that we find the speculative viewpoint that Anti-Climacus specifically has in mind when he insists that the incarnation is a unity of God and an individual human being, which Strauss explicitly denies.36 That Strauss is the person Anti-Climacus is chiefly opposing is also evident in his charge that 'speculation takes away from the God-human being the qualifications of temporality, contemporaneity, and actuality', since for Strauss the God-man is the idea of humanity, not an actual human being (PC 81, translation modified). But Strauss is not the only left-wing Hegelian who associates the incarnation with humanity or the human species rather than a particular human being. Feuerbach also interprets Christ as 'nothing but an image, under which the unity of the species has impressed itself on the popular consciousness'.37 For Feuerbach the unity of the species is realized in the whole human race, not in a single individual. Feuerbach thus concludes that 'where there arises the consciousness of the species as a species, the idea of humanity as a whole, Christ disappears, without, however, his true nature disappearing; for he was the substitute for the consciousness of the species, the image under which it was made present to the people, and became the law of the popular life'.38 While not associating the species with the figure of Christ, Marx also affirms the consciousness of 'species-being' as constituting authentic human nature and existence, from which modern workers are alienated by the subhuman material conditions and status of their lives as productive labourers.39

We shall have occasion in a later chapter to consider the sociopolitical implications of affirming the species over the single individual. It should

36 See also Pattison (2007; 2005: 150-6); Come (1997: 22-3).

37 Feuerbach (1989: 268); cf. Harvey (1995: 114-19). 38 Ibid. 269.

be pointed out here, however, that in a journal entry from 1850, the same year Practice in Christianity was published, Kierkegaard reaffirms the view in The Concept of Anxiety that the single individual is more and higher than the race or species, inasmuch as the single individual is 'the whole race and also the individuation', whereas the race is merely an animal qualification and as such is not akin to or identical with God (JP ii. 2024; cf. 2071). As Kierkegaard sees them, human beings are not merely 'animal copies' (Dyre-Exemplarer) or particular specimens of the race but spiritual beings who are created in the image of God and thus are higher than the race (2024, cf. 2048). Consequently, he contends that 'here is where the battle must really be fought' (JP ii. 1614). Christ is not the human race nor does he save the human race, only single individuals.

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