“The Humanity of God”

What does the term “Humanity of God” mean to you? Figuring out, developing what this means, for the Christian, is what my doctoral research is focusing on. I am at the very early inchoate stages of my research on the vicarious humanity of Christ. My first focused book on the subject is (a review copy from Wipf & Stock) Christian Kettler’s excellent volume The Vicarious Humanity of Christ and the Reality of Salvation (his PhD dissertation completed at Fuller Theological Seminary in the late 80’s). I am jumping us into a brief synopsis he is providing on the question I open this post up with ‘The Humanity of God’. He is summarising this by sketching Christopher B. Kaiser’s understanding of Karl Barth’s answer to this question, in Kaiser’s The Doctrine of God (Westminster, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), pp. 116-118. This synopsis should help some of you understand better some of things I will be considering in my research for my own dissertation on an overlapping issue (the ‘vicarious humanity of Christ’). Here is Kettler,

[G]od acts because of his desire to be a partner with humanity “though of course as the absolutely superior partner.” This is an expression of God’s freedom, for he is under no compulsion to be in communion with humanity. And this freedom defines the essence of God’s deity. “It is precisely God’s deity which, rightly understood, includes his humanity.” How is this known? This is known only through Jesus Christ, in whom God is not isolated from humanity, nor humanity from God. Jesus Christ as the Mediator and Reconciler comes forward as human being in behalf of God and to God on behalf of humanity.

If Jesus Christ is the only place where both true deity and true humanity are found, then this leads us to another meaning of the humanity of God, according to Kaiser: God himself in Jesus is the foundation of true humanity. That which is hinted at in Barth’s essay “The Humanity of God” is developed further in the Church Dogmatics III/2. In the midst of discussing the nature of the covenant between God and humanity, Barth observes that its origin is in God himself. The covenant is not an afterthought, but is ontological. It becomes “revealed and effective in time in the humanity of Jesus,” but he hastens to add that this is something which “we might almost say [is] appropriate and natural to Him.” In the covenant, God makes a “copy” of himself. “Even in His divine being there is relationship” as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

He is Himself the One who loves eternally, the One who is eternally loved, and eternal love; and in this triunity He is the original source of every I and Thou, of the I which is eternally from and to the Thou and therefore supremely I.

However, Barth does not want to deny that Jesus’ incarnate humanity was creaturely humanity. Since Jesus belongs to this creaturely world, his humanity is like our humanity. This is not an analogy of being, therefore, but an analogy of relationship. The relationship between the being of God and that of humanity, and the relationship in the being of God himself as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an analogia relationis. Barth puts this in the context of God’s freedom. God is free to posit himself in relation as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit from all eternity. So, also, he is free to create humanity in his own “image.” Therefore, we need not look for the meaning of true humanity elsewhere than in the humanity of Jesus Christ. We shall see that this can be the basis for a decisive critique of contemporary soteriologies. [Christian D. Kettler, The Vicarious Humanity of Christ and the Reality of Salvation, 84]

What do you think?

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