Christ’s contribution to the ontology of the person

A familiar contemporary dilemma for Christology is:

1.) Christ has an individual human nature

2.) Every individual human nature is a human person

3.) Christ is not a human person.

The three claims cannot all be true, but (2) seems evident from the terms while (1) and (3) are essential to all accounts of the Incarnation. First, if Christ’s human nature were not individual and concrete, then it could not die, be born, suffer, or even be sensed since human nature in general, or as universal, or an essence can do none of these things. Second, if Christ is a human person then, given that all Trinitarian accounts make the Logos of God a person, Christ is two persons. But if this is the case, then the Incarnation is nothing more remarkable than my being a human person and God being one too.

This leaves orthodox Christology as having to deny (2) even though the premise seems evident form the terms. But I think the denial is actually illuminating, and that it reveals something crucial about the ontology of the person.

Notice that (2) turns on “human person” being either more general or convertible with “human individual”. Person, however, seems to add something to the individual. One attains to individuality simply by negating of universality of a nature, but a person is not a mere negation of universality to human nature. Personality, on anyone’s account, needs to allow for some sort of positive reality that sets one person apart from others (even if St. Thomas’s ontology was not always very good at accounting for this positive element.) Loving a person, for example, involves more than a recognition that the one loved is not predicable of many. True, it is evident from the terms that every human person is a human individual, but if we leave it at this the dilemma vanishes (the converse of 2 cannot form a syllogism with 3 or with 1).

And so the response to (2) is not just some ad hoc attempt to save Christology at all costs but rather involves the much more interesting claim that personality is something above mere individuation of a given nature, which seems to be a very desirable conclusion indeed.

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2 Comments

  1. Paradox said,

    November 19, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    I myself am more inclined to reject #3 out of hand, because a person is a person, regardless of whether he is an angel, a man, a god, or a space alien. What distinguishes the “different kinds” of person is the nature a person has*. Christ, being the divine nature, and having a human nature, is both fully and properly God and fully and properly man. Hence, the incarnated Word is a human person, and a divine person.

    You have a great point, rejecting #2 (which I do not intend to take away from). Something greater than just an individuation of a particular nature must make things into persons. So, why not the preexisting Christ in this case?
    I assume your blog post on the Hypostatic Union covers at least some of this?

  2. November 23, 2014 at 8:40 pm

    Reblogged this on Reflections and commented:
    The importance of ontology.


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