Did Christ Have a Fallen Human Nature? – Part 1 of 8
by Fr. Emmanuel Hatzidakis on June 23, 2013
When I placed the above question in Google, one of the blog posts it took me to was http://www.becomingorthodox.com/2012/12/was-jesus-christ-born-with-sin-nature.html, dated Dec. 31, 2012. The title of the blog post was, “Was Jesus Christ Born With a Sin Nature and Original Sin?” The key paragraph in answer to the question posed is the following:
"The Orthodox proclaim unequivocally that Jesus became like us in every way. No special exceptions are needed for Him–He was 100% human just like we are. He assumed every part of humanity as it is (post-fallen) in order to redeem it. This is the only answer you can give without making excuses for Christ’s exemption to some facet of our humanness. Jesus Christ, one person in two natures (everything it means to be human, Jesus became), 100% human and 100% God."
In a subsequent blog post the blogger stated: “Jesus by necessity assumed a post-fallen nature.” In a series of blog posts I intend to address the subject of the human nature of Christ from the perspective of the Orthodox Church. Below are some of the questions we will address in this series.
Did Christ have a sin nature?
According to our blogger fallen nature means sin nature. Is everyone in agreement with that? What does fallen nature mean? What does sin nature mean? Do we all agree with the syllogism that since Christ was 100% human and since all humans have a sin nature ergo He must have by necessity a sin nature? Or with the syllogism behind the syllogism: Christ has a human nature; human nature is fallen; therefore He has a fallen nature? Can one have a sin nature and be sinless? How can the sinless One reap the “wages of sin”? Does assuming a postlapsarian nature and remaining sinless are mutually exclusive?
Does fallen nature mean sinful nature?
Postlapsarianists want Christ to be exactly like us, fallen, yet not exactly like us, sinful. How can the two be reconciled? Despite attributing to Him a “sin nature” they claim that He resisted temptations and never sinned. But even if Christ remained totally sinless, as most postlapsarianists aver, the fact remains that as fallen He must bear all the consequences of the fall, which, besides having an irresistible tendency to sin, includes corruption, suffering, and physical and spiritual death. Did Christ inherit a fallen human nature and did He necessarily live under the conditions of fallen world, as any other human being?
Is Christ’s human nature fallen or un-fallen?
Fallen – un-fallen. This has been the binary along which Christologists have been debating Christ’s humanness. But can it be that there is an alternative? Christ does not seem to be un-fallen. He exhibits the consequences of the fall, as we all do: He tires, He hungers, He thirsts, He displays ignorance, emotions, sadness, fears; He experiences pain, both physical and emotional, and as He comes into existence so He expires and dies. Yet, He also exhibits characteristics that are beyond normal human experience: He goes on for many days without any food or drink, He floats on water, and He shows extraordinary powers. He doesn’t seem to fit either condition. What’s the answer?
Was Christ in control of the passions or under their control?
Christ has clearly exhibited characteristics that belong to fallen humanity. Could we then call Him fallen? Well, there are a few more questions that need to be answered first: Was He inherently fallen, that is, were sinfulness, corruption and mortality ingrained in His human nature or was He free of these consequences of the fall, but He voluntarily assumed only certain of these consequences, called blameless or innocent passions? Are such passions essential elements of humanity so that Christ had to necessarily assume them in order to be fully human or did He exercise control over the human passions He accepted freely for our salvation?
How did Christ’s two natures coexist?
There is another set of questions pertaining to the union of humanity and divinity in His person. Was there any interchange between His two natures? Did the union have any effect over His humanity or did the two natures function separately and independently of each other? How do we perceive that union? Should we treat Christ as a mere human being in the way He thinks, He acts, He lives, and He dies, or should we take into account the fact that the hypostatic union exerts an influence on Christ’s humanity, making Him a unique reality? What are the consequences of the hypostatic union? How does Christ function as God and man?
Could Christ have a fallen human nature?
Could He? Christ is the incarnate Son of God. Anything predicated upon the human nature of Christ is predicated upon the Person of Christ. Isn’t saying Christ’s human nature is fallen the same as saying the Son of God is fallen? Could we possibly attribute fallenness to the Son of God? How could He be subject to all the consequences of the original sin? How could Christ win a victory over death when He was doomed to die from the moment He was conceived? How could the Son of God be an un-voluntary instrument of Satan? How could the powers of His intellect and soul be feeble and His spirit deprived of God’s sanctifying grace?
In this blog post we’ve only posed questions. In the posts that will follow we’ll examine our blogger’s unequivocal conviction that Christ was fallen, just like we all are, and attempt to provide what we think are definitive answers, at least from an Eastern Orthodox perspective.
In out next post we’ll address whether or not Christ had a fallen nature. GO TO PART 2