Jesus Christ’s Humanity In The Contexts of the Pre-Fall And Post-Fall Natures of Humanity: A Comparative and Critical Evaluative Study of the Views of Jack Sequeira, Millard J Erickson and Norman R Gulley
by Emmanuel Mwale, PhD
Submitted in accordance with the requirements for the degree of DOCTOR OF PHILOSOPHY in the subject of Theology at the University of South Africa
Supervisor: Prof J M Wood
This study has established that Gulley’s alternative or unique or ‘neither pre-fall nor post-fall’ model of Jesus’ human nature is actually also the one proposed by Erickson. Gulley and Erickson are proponents of what can be called a unique, pre-fall (prelapsarian) model of Jesus’ human nature. There does not seem to be a strictly pre-fall model of Jesus’ human nature, for such a model would have meant that Jesus has assumed Adam’s pre- fall nature, both spiritually and physically – a view that Gulley and Erickson correctly do not support. Evangelical scholars such as Thiessen and Grudem are in harmony with Erickson’s pre-fall model of Jesus’ human nature. SDA scholars such as Webster and Adams argue that the alternative or unique or ‘neither pre-fall nor post-fall model’ of Jesus’ human nature proposed by Gulley and a number of other Adventist scholars, is post-fall. However, this study has established that, since this model omits ‘propensities or drives caused as a result of Adams fall’ from Jesus’ human nature, it is pre-fall. Therefore, this study concludes that the Adventist model of Jesus’ human nature in Seventh-day Adventists Believe (General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists 2005) and Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology (2000) is pre-fall and not post-fall as some Adventist scholars claim. Thus, in harmony with the Adventist history of Christology, which reveals that they had conversations with Evangelicals 1955-1956, resulting in Adventists revising their model (although not in an official statement) to reflect the popular Evangelical Christological model, this study concludes that many Adventists are proponents of the Evangelical model of Jesus’ human nature as represented by Erickson.
I have noted that both Gulley’s and Erickson’s model of Jesus’ human nature is not consistent with the NT data. It fails to adequately resolve the dual problem of sin and makes Jesus the pre-fall Adam’s substitute. This model also makes Jesus the pre-fall Adam’s example in temptation, obedience, and suffering. In this model, Jesus becomes the pre-fall Adam’s High Priest. It suggests that Jesus had three natures: A divine nature, a pre-fall spiritual human nature, and a post-fall physical human nature. I have therefore rejected that model.
Sequeira’s post-fall (postlapsarian) model of Jesus’ human nature reflects the NT data better than Gulley’s and Erickson’s pre-fall model. In Sequeira’s model, Jesus is a post-fall Adam’s substitute. The model adequately resolves the dual problem of sin. In this model Jesus is the post-fall Adam’s example in temptation, obedience, and suffering. This model also suggests that Jesus is the post-fall Adam’s High Priest. It preserves the biblical teaching that Jesus had two natures.
I have observed, however, that, since Jesus became what He was not by native right, it is important to revise the post-fall model of His human nature so that it reflects this fact. Jesus was not conceived in the natural way, but by the power of the Holy Spirit. He was not born spiritually dead but was filled with the Holy Spirit right from His mother’s womb. He was the God-Man. He was and still remains the only human being who is also God, with the divine and human natures blended in such a way that, while they remain distinct, He is not two persons in one, but one Person with two natures. Although He assumed a human nature, which was indwelt by the law of sin, He did not commit any sin throughout His life. Thus, I have proposed what I have called a unique, post-fall (postlapsarian) model of Jesus’ human nature.
In this study, I have argued that Christologists should not be restricted by the creedal statements formulated at Nicaea and Chalcedon, for they reflect the views of the theologians of the first five centuries of the Christian Church and not necessarily what the Bible teaches. Christologists should freely study the NT in light of the OT and decide for themselves what the Bible conveys about Jesus’ human nature. Taking both the pre-fall and post-fall human natures into consideration, they will be able to appreciate God’s solution to the dual problem of sin, which actually involved the incarnation of the second Person of the Godhead.
It is good to meet science with science, and philosophy with philosophy. However, the incarnation seemingly did not follow this mode of reasoning. It is therefore a mystery, as it cannot be explained from a genetic point of view. Therefore, this study contends that, while the Bible suggests that the law of heredity applied to Jesus’ entrance into this world, since the Holy Spirit prepared Jesus’ body in Mary’s womb, Christologists should refrain from speculating about how God brought about the existence of a male human being without the involvement of the male factor. No one, except God, knows what really happened in Mary’s womb. It is enough that the Bible tells us that Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit. It is enough that Jesus Christ was a male human being with XY sex chromosomes and 22 pairs of autosomes. We know from genetics that the female parent provides 23 chromosomes and the male parent provides another 23 chromosomes so that the offspring has a total of 46 chromosomes. We also know from genetics that the mother provides an X chromosome while the father provides a Y chromosome to produce a male child. In Jesus’ case, it is possible to speculate that Mary provided the X chromosome, although it was unlikely, since the incarnation is not about biological processes. We do not know where the Y chromosome came from, but we know that God, who created Adam from dust and Eve using bone and flesh taken from Adam’s side, is not limited by the laws of genetics, which He Himself created. Just like Eve was created using Adam’s material alone, but was not Adam’s clone, Jesus Christ was created from Mary’s material alone, but was not her clone. Therefore, it is wrong to speculate about what God did at the incarnation, simply to make the incarnation philosophically acceptable.
The unique, post-fall model of Jesus’ human nature that I have proposed in this study preserves the uniqueness of Jesus. I have contended that Jesus assumed a post-fall human nature without being a sinner in need of a saviour. I have also contended that it is possible to teach that Jesus assumed a post-fall human nature, without getting into the trap of perfectionism or absolute sinlessness in nature and performance. It is possible to be a post-fall Christologist and still advocate Jesus’ absolute perfection and the believer’s relative perfection. Sequeira does this in his Christology. I equally espouse the post-fall view of Jesus’ human nature, but I do not support the ‘holy flesh’ heresy and the so-called believer’s ‘absolute perfection’. I totally reject legalism. Jesus is our Saviour before He is our Example. He had to save us before He could be our Example. He is our substitute before He is our Example. This is my view of salvation in light of Jesus’ unique post-fall human nature that I have proposed in this study.