All of Humanity in Christ

The incarnation (homoousion) implies that all of humanity is re-created in the image of God, insofar that Christ is the second and greater Adam. In other words, the incarnation works from the reality that Jesus is the image of God (Col. 1:15) for us, and as such as He assumes our humanity as His own, He re-creates and exalts humanity in His humanity for us; just as His humanity is archetypal humanity, such that what it means to be genuinely human before God, is who Jesus is for us in His vicarious humanity. This presents us with what might be termed a Christological objectivism. That is, that whether or not humanity consciously affirms the ground of their [human] being, whether or not they affirm that they are images of the image of God in Christ, they are indeed such. This implies that God is for the whole world in His free election for us in Jesus Christ. This says, that God’s life for the world is determinative, whether we acknowledge it or not. So, in this frame, the Christian Gospel is necessarily an inclusive reality, insofar that the basis for what it means to be human before God is the same for the Christian and the non-Christian alike. The difference between the former and the latter is that the former repents and acknowledges that this is the case, whereas the latter rebels and fights against their very being, their very salvation in Jesus Christ. This rebellion, of course, results in untold chaos and destruction as we see evinced all around us. But what remains the case is that all of humanity is held and funded by God’s grace to be for us rather than against us. The first Adam, whose fallen humanity yet remains in the remnants of these fallen bodies of ours, remains nonetheless. The Christian, because they actively have the Holy Spirit present in their lives, have the resurrection power of Christ, to resist the desires of the first Adam; those who remain in rebellion to their life in Christ (non-Christians), remain enslaved to the first Adam’s desires and affections, driven by his typologically fallen spirit of self-incurved delight and self-actualization. But the objective reality remains: all of humanity, insofar as Christ is that for us, is held in God’s image, God’s humanity for the world in Jesus Christ.

17 thoughts on “All of Humanity in Christ

  1. Thanks for this post Bobby. This is what I am still working through in my own thinking and would appreciate your further help or comment.

    As far to what God has done in Christ to restore the image of God in humanity as an objective reality I think is very clear. What I think it is also clear that the subjective experience of being restored to that objective humanity in Christ occurs when one encounters that reality personally in time and space. The difficulty i have is in understanding those who have not as yet entered into an experience of that reality as being understood as the image of God. (This i am not actually sure you are saying hence my questions). That would be the first thing in this.
    The second, which is related, would be the way in which the space-time experience and the heavenly reality are connected for the individual. That is “until one is born again one can not see the kingdom of heaven” (among other, post resurrection, texts). That, I think, (but perhaps Torrance and others differ is that) we can frame as the experience of being regenerated / born again as a result of being made alive by the Spirit though his indwelling. This does not take place subjectively in the individual until they believe and receive the finished work.
    While TFT is famous for framing his, “”born-again” experience as having happened at Calvary (i.e. in Christ historically, primarily and completely) it still begs the question (for me at least) what that experience personally is in time and space for the individual and when the result is applied (by God to us and therefore how we speak of humanity now).
    What I think is without dispute is the objective reality. That is fine and i have no problem embracing that. What I do not quite see fitting is understanding or calling people who are, as yet unregenerate, the image of God in this sense (although i understand people use this term in different ways and which is not actually what i think you are). In Christ we all have been restored. Yes. But isn’t it that until we enter into that restoration we remain as yet fallen from the image of his Son? This seems to me put the two ideas together and i would be grateful for your thoughts.

    To put that view more simply the image of God lost in Adam is restored in Christ objectively but subjectively not encountered until being born again / from above.

    Thanks brother for anything you may offer in this since i think i am missing something to make it clear in my own thinking and to present Christ to others more faithfully.

    R

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  2. Hi Richard,

    I will find a quote for you later that gets into this with reference to TFT’s theology. But basically the idea is that Jesus is humanity before God for us [full stop]. That isn’t just objectivism, as I underscored that aspect of my facebook post turned blog post here. He is human (and thus redeemed humanity) before God for us both objectively and subjectively; both Godward to human/ humanward to God in his singular person. So the subjective is just as much actualized, objectively, as is the objective side of His choice to be for us is actualized in His freedom as God. But of course, the question you’re asking is the one that many have asked. My response is always the same, even if it sounds like an evasion (it’s not). People say yes because of God’s determination for humanity to say yes to God rather than no. This determination was fully actualized in Christ’s humanity, the only genuine humanity before God. People echo His yes for us just as He actualized this yes for us in His Yes to become human in the first place. But it is this yes to the Father that we likewise echo by the Spirit. The hang up for people comes when they attempt to think this through normal speculatively derived theories of causation; like we have in the West from Aristotle’s influence. This type of logico-causal theorizing doesn’t apply to the Gospel in the sense that Gospel comes with its own logics as that is revealed in the Christ Himself. So based on revelation we know why people say Yes, it is because Jesus first said yes for them. In the negative, we don’t know why people ultimately say No anymore that we know why Adam and Eve said yes to serpent in the garden. So if we think this in from kataphatic theology, as this trad I am promoting does, then the question or scandal of particularity, as that is often indicated in this type of discussion is denuded in the sense that it isn’t attempting to answer questions that it never asked in itself to begin with. I have more to say. Maybe more later.

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  3. Thanks Bobby. This is a very helpful way of describing our place in the new humanity in Christ Jesus. A few of us were only discussing these things 2 days ago. in relation to Paul’s teaching in Colossians 1:15-20, as he compares our reconciled humanity, at peace with God through the atoning cross, with the humanity that was/is hostile in mind, doing evil deeds, in Colossians 1:21.

    There is a need to help our churches, to speak well, into all of the areas now being debated around gender. This blog post is indicative of the way forward. A new redeemed situation and new understanding has been given to the world in Jesus Christ. The future of our human health, and sanity is to be found there.

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  4. Thank you for the benefit of Athanasian Reformed articles; it is a joy to read them.
    Yes! To be human is to be more than most people reckon. The expression “I’m only human,” people use to give themselves an excuse for not doing well, becomes a contradiction in terms. “I’m only human” means to be less than God’s intended creation. We can relegate the expression to humanism, which stuffs people into a false-bottomed box. It artificially positions humanity in a place not intended by the Creator. God never intended a magical or superman effect when He made Adam and Eve. God intended a ruler over nature who would tend the garden while keeping the animated world in control.

    We see God’s intended humanity in the man Jesus Christ. Jesus knew who He was and what His mission meant. Jesus was never confused, nor did He wonder what to do. His vision was clear. The “nature” He ruled over was human nature; He took the steps to redeem humankind by the blood of His cross. He is called the last Adam because there will not be another one. Jesus was/is the intention of what God formed out of the dust of the ground. Neither the first nor the last Adam had a natural father; God was the direct maker of both.

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  5. Thanks for insights. Send me anything you can. I am conscious that you wish to explore thoughts that underpin your own thinking in your blog. I greatly respect your rigour and commitment of understanding the complete sufficiency of Christ for us, “all the way down, all the way up, and all the way through”. I’m no doubt a few steps behind you in the journey on this one and will plod through and pray that the Lord will help me (as we know he wills to).

    I’m in pretty much total agreement with the above with one hesitation with respect to the individual which (even if we grant this is not the focus of the Scripture itself it is still an implication that people must deal with personally as individuals). The issue here i think has to do with ontology and the encounter with God’s grace personally as transformative in the course of ones life. That is, at one point in personal history not having known or participated in the salvation that is in Christ (other than “externally” to ones knowledge AKA – being once dead in sins having been made alive in him before we even were). Perhaps this is where the departure or dissonance actually lies? Salvation is for us both vicarious (lets say accomplished external to us yet within humanity in Christ) and something that is internal to us ie personally known and encountered.

    Forgive the convolution but what i think I am trying to get at is that it seems that there is more (not less) here with respect to the way the Gospel is encountered in the life of an individual and as it is presented in the NT witness and the expectations of our God-granted responses through Christ’s own perfect reciprocity. It’s not a matter of a kind of lacuna or deliberate elision in the Biblical witness. The position can be framed in a certain way that i don’t fully recognise in my reading of the Bible. (Now one could argue this is because of a kind of disordered paradigm or set of categories and ways of apriori rather than a posteriori thinking. I am not as yet convinced this is the reason).

    Not sure i am putting it right but having said the above we must, i believe/ accept that it is God’s “yes” that defines (kataphatically) for us the ontological union that is actualised in Christ. The forgiveness given while we were yet sinners (in the lamb slain before the foundation of the world). If this, by necessary causation, means all humanity is to be understood as being, “born anew” then the conclusion that i think would be inescapable is that there is no ontological difference between the regenerated individual and the unregenerate. I just don’t see Scripture making this jump / assertion or connection. That conception render the call or imperative to be “born again” as simply a call to be what we already are. This seems to me to push beyond what the NT witness presents as it conveys the gospel in a way incongruous to the call to repentance (even notwithstanding that Christ provides for us the complete repentance in himself vicariously). The call to repent on the basis of Christ’s fee grace and forgiveness is one thing both actualised and empowered. The need to be born again is related to (but not identical as far as i can see at this point) and the point of time in which this happens seems to be congruent with the entry of the Spirit as he wills in the life and ontology of an individual and works in us to will. (This I would have to say is not alien to the text or to my own perceived experience having had a very “road to Damascus” type conversion myself. And yes you could argue that my own experience colours the way i understand what has happened or is the reality itself. I’m open. I trust, to revising this in light of what is real).

    I think it is impossible to escape that Jesus is our Salvation. He is the humanising human. The personalising person. All this is foundation to our shared and redeemed humanity. The new redeemed situation i think is a good way of looking at it. However it is something into which we must enter (via Christ who is the door) rather than simply something we must only actively reject is it not ? At least this seems to me to be the way the Bible presents the gospel to us.

    Happy to hear your refining thoughts and apologies if it is a bit verbose.

    R

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  6. Despite the apparent development of Barth’s theology “in the soil of modernity,” he remains consistently christological. His unique suggestion of God’s assumption of time in Christ, whereby there is the reapprochement of eternity and time, serves an actualistic christology within the context of “God’s time for us” in a kind of “third time” in which both God and humanity participate, an “actualized” existence in which both creation and God participate (which is “entered into” on man’s part by faith in Christ Jesus). James J. Cassidy has provided an excellent discussion of this aspect of Barth’s theology in his book, God’s Time for Us, Barth’s Reconciliation of Eternity and Time in Jesus Christ, which is worth the read.

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  7. I know Cassidy, we’ve had many of a skirmish in the past. He isn’t a good reader of Barth; he’s a Van Tilian who believes Barth is ultimately a heretic.

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  8. Not familiar enough with him to have satisfied an opinion, but I have read a couple of things in the book that gave me pause… have you read this particular work of his? Or have you “worked through” this (proposed) idea that Barth reconciles eternity and time by the actualization of God’s acts in the sphere of creation and our world of space-time in Christ, thus making eternity and time one in the event of Jesus Christ, “God’s time for us?”

    Cassidy claims, “For Barth, Jesus Christ is himself a dialectical relation existing always and everywhere as a transcendent event. In him, eternity becomes temporal without ceasing to be eternal. Likewise, in him time is eternal without ceasing to be time.” (God’s Time for Us: Barth’s Reconciliation of Eternity and Time in Jesus Christ, Cassidy, James J., Lexham Press, 2016, p186)

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  9. @RichardS, I think the quote I have in my sidebar from TFT still gives the best principled thinking on the implications of the vicarious humanity of Jesus Christ

    “God loves you so utterly and completely that he has given himself for you in Jesus Christ his beloved Son, and has thereby pledged his very being as God for your salvation. In Jesus Christ God has actualised his unconditional love for you in your human nature in such a once for all way, that he cannot go back upon it without undoing the Incarnation and the Cross and thereby denying himself. Jesus Christ died for you precisely because you are sinful and utterly unworthy of him, and has thereby already made you his own before and apart from your ever believing in him. He has bound you to himself by his love in a way that he will never let you go, for even if you refuse him and damn yourself in hell his love will never cease. Therefore, repent and believe in Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.” -T. F. Torrance, The Mediation of Christ, 94.

    As far as humanity’s (salvation’s) actualization for individual people, I think that is accounted for by the freedom that has come for us in the Christ’s Yes in our stead. We, by the Spirit, like Christ, have the capacity to repent and acknowledge our need for God as God alone. As far as why this happens, again, we can say because God elected humanity to be for Him rather than against Him in Christ’s Yes. As to why people say no, we must asymmetrically appeal to the surd-ness or inscrutable reality of sin. This represents something of a paradox, or dialectic, and one I think we must live with. But this all takes us back to whether we are going to be committed “positive” kataphatic theologians, or are we instead going to engage in the negative speculative way of the scholastics.

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  10. @RichardB, it’s possible for people who are fundamentally wrong, theologically, like Cassidy, to make true statements say in regard to Barth here and there. But even the way he states things in your quotes is not “Barth language” about time and eternity (Barth uses “new time” “old time” etc). If you want to dig deeper into a critique of Cassidy on Barth read the following posts which I was instrumental in initiating, along with some past friends in the Barth world https://theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com/2012/01/25/revelation-and-history-cornelius-van-tils-critique-of-karl-barth/ and https://theologyoutofbounds.wordpress.com/2012/01/26/actualism-discussion-on-barth-and-theological-ontology/

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  11. Thank you Bobby for this blog enjoy the takes especially when discussing paradoxes of the faith. Do you think we in the West have placed to much emphasis on the individual at the expense of the whole?

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  12. @John, thank you! I think theologically too much emphasis has been placed on an abstract humanity rather than Christ’s humanity for us. His vicarious humanity accounts for total humanity, and then the particulars (us) within it.

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