The Dual Nature of Christ: A Reflection on Christology

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165467328During one of our commutes, my son spotted a young man by the bus stop who had his hair colored in green. When he was close enough to verify that the young man's hair was indeed green, my son started giggling.

“Your hair is green. That’s so funny!” He was chuckling.

And the young man responded with chuckles too. “Oh yeah, just like your Mom’s top.” I was wearing a green bolero jacket at that time.

And my son had a hearty laugh. He loved the idea that I was wearing a green top when we saw the young man whose hair reminded him of Sesame Street’s Oscar the Grouch.

My son could not get over that green hair encounter.

With the thought that the man may have a chameleon-like special power, my son would ask me to visualize the young man’s hair when, say, he is lying on the ground, inside the bus or sitting on a purple couch. He could see the man changing his hair from green into brown, yellow and yes, purple.

I have quite a number of strong arguments to prove that a human being cannot be a chameleon and a man simultaneously. My son, however, thinks otherwise.

“If you have a special power, you can! What if the man has special power?”

The old soul in me was thankful I knew better. However, my son’s question sent me into a careful analysis.

Like me, some religious groups have difficulty buying into the possibility of a dual nature. And I pretty feel justified and reasonable for not believing that a man with green hair has a super power. But what if, these religious groups, which do not believe in Christ’s dual nature, are also coming from the same stream of thought as mine? What kind of narrative it weaves about my faith? Beyond science and hair dyes, how could human’s finite mind grapple with beyond-human concept like dual nature?

For instance, the Ebionites couldn’t grasp Christ’s divine nature. The belief acceptable to them is that he only received the Spirit at baptism. The Arians’ modern-day spinoff Jehovah’s witnesses are on the same league. They believe that Jesus is the first and highest created being, but He has never been a God.

The Gnostics (docetism) had a slightly different interpretation. They affirm that Jesus only appeared human and denies that he had a truly human nature. Nestorius and adherents of Nestorianism are on the same league. They deny the union of the divine and human natures in one person. They believe that the divine completely controlled the human.

On the other hand, Eutychianism denies any real distinction in Christ’s natures at all. Eutyches believe that Christ’s human nature was engulfed in the divine resulting in a new third nature. Finally, Appolinarius and his followers deny a facet of Jesus’ humanity. They believe that Christ has divine mind all throughout his stay on earth and that the divine Logos took the place of Jesus’ human spirit.

These are all errors in light of human’s finite capacity to comprehend Christ’s dual nature, justified using Biblical passages and data.

Consequently, these and other denials of Jesus' full divinity or full humanity distort the basis of our salvation: that God took on human flesh for the love and redemption of humanity.

“But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.” -Matthew 1:20-23 NKJV

Understanding The Dual Nature of Christ

The dual nature of Christ is more comprehensible if the events surrounding his birth will be taken into consideration. Christ’s life narrative has that divine and human elements to it from the very beginning: he didn’t fall from heaven, he was conceived by a woman who labored to get his way out the birth canal (human), only that this woman was a virgin (divine).

Like any other Jewish boys, Jesus was brought by his parents to the temple in Jerusalem (human), but in the process they met a devout man named Simeon who prophesied about Jesus’ destiny: the fall and rise of many in Israel through him and a sword that will pierce through his own soul (divine).

When he was 12, during the family’s yearly visit to Jerusalem, Jesus got lost in a great crowd without Maria and Jose’s knowledge (human). They found him in the temple after three days, sitting in the midst of the teachers of the law, both listening to them and asking them questions (divine).

In our modern world, it would be a picture of a 12-year-old boy discussing civil rights matters with the experts of constitutional law. And this was around 6 A.D. – no Internet, no encyclopedia, not even the most obsolete automobile we have today. What could be more insane than that?

Here is how I would answer that question: The only thing that could be more insane than a 12-year-old boy legal expert is a 33-year-old Jesus dying on the cross for the fulfillment of a redemption plan.

“Then He went down with them and came to Nazareth, and was subject to them, but His mother kept all these things in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” -Luke 2:51-52 NKJV

That Childlike Faith

Understanding the dual nature of Christ is beyond an intellectual practice.

I could cite a dozen of Biblical passages attesting that He was fully human and fully God in his entire stay on earth. And yet, there still would be certain truth to that claim that my limited experience and understanding cannot fathom.

But what I’ve learned from my son and his fascination to that young man sporting green hair is that with trust, openness, honesty and unbridled joy, I can understand God’s love and nature, fragment by fragment, one facet at a time. And that gift of understanding in Christ will foster an intimate relationship between us. That what I couldn’t be certain today, may not necessarily stop me from entertaining possibilities.

In Orthodoxy, G.K. Chesterton posits that God has the eternal appetite of infancy. This appetite, however, has an aversion for "been there, done that," a grown-up favorite quote. And this is where grown-up and childlike faith differs: exulting in monotony and fascination in possibilities.

I would never ever find a green hair funny and fascinating. It has no impact to me at all. I would probably just passed by that young man if not for my son. And sometimes, that is the case with Christ’s dual nature – He could be screaming and revealing that side of Him to us through nature and circumstance, but we just pass them by. We couldn’t see and identify their worth for lack of a childlike faith. From here, Jesus’ admiration of a child makes perfect sense.

“Then Jesus called a little child to Him, set him in the midst of them, and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore whoever humbles himself as this little child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 18:2-4 NKJV

 

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Photo Credit: Getty Images

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