- In the Likeness of Sinful Flesh: An Essay on the Humanity of Christ by Thomas G. Weinandy, O.F.M. Cap. (review)
- The Thomist: A Speculative Quarterly Review
- The Catholic University of America Press
- Volume 59, Number 4, October 1995
- pp. 649-653
- View Citation
- Additional Information
BOOK REVIEWS 649 In the LikeMss of Sinful Flesh: An Essay on the Humanity of Christ. By THOMAS G. WEINANDY, 0.F.M. Cap. Edinburgh: T & T Clark, 1993. Pp. 168. $29.95. In this present work Thomas Weinandy, Tutor and Lecturer in History and Doctrine at the University of Oxford, seeks to identity and forge more clearly the link between a classical christology and the soteriological centrality of the cross. He does this by arguing that a consideration of both the theological tradition and scriptural sources reveals "that Jesus was born of the fallen race of Adam and that such a condition was absolutely indispensable for our salvation" (21). While applauding the renewed concern for the full humanity of Jesus in contemporary christology, Weinandy resolutely refuses to oppose such a concern with the classical "high" christology embraced at Chalcedon. He therefore rejects the impulse found in much contemporary "christology from below" or in Kenotic approaches to play off the humanity of Christ against the tradition's view of his possession of a divine nature in the name of avoiding Docetism. Rather, while beginning "from below" with the humanity of Jesus, it should be recognized that such a point of departure is gnoseological, pertaining to our "coming to know" Jesus' identity. From an ontological perspective , the Incarnation begins "from above" with the preexistent Word. To buttress his analysis, Weinandy first examines precursors of his thesis in the theological tradition. He argues that the majority of patristic writers were concerned to express the full reality of Jesus' humanity, including its susceptibility to weakness and temptation, against Docetic and Apollinarian impulses to the contrary. Such an awareness in turn led to the formulation of the essential soteriological principle that "what is not assumed is not healed," a theme which Weinandy sounds throughout the book (e.g., 27, 70, 122). Hence to redeem us from sin, Jesus must have assumed "not merely a generic humanity of the same species as ours, but a humanity inherited from and tarnished by sinful Adam" (27). In surveying aspects of medieval christology, Weinandy considers some Anselmian approximations of his theme, but focuses on the work of Aquinas. Like many patristic thinkers, Aquinas states clearly that Jesus did not assume original sin or its resulting concupiscence and that he himself never sinned. Yet he states equally clearly that Jesus' nature was touched by the effects of sin such as hunger, thirst, weakness, and death which he freely assumed along with his humanity (cf. ST III, q. 14, a. 3). Further, he argues for the fittingness ofsuch an assumption on a variety of grounds. So complete was Christ's identification with us that it is even fitting that Jesus descended into hell in order to deliver us from the same fate (cf. ST III, q. 52, a. 1). As in the case of their treatment of patristic thought, later theological manuals 650 BOOK REVIEWS tended to fixate on other parts of Aquinas's presentation at the expense of his realistic appraisal of Jesus' humanity. In the arena of modem theology, Weinandy samples both Protestant Catholic theological approaches. He considers the pneumatic christology of the nineteenth-century Reformed theologian Edward Irving and its development in the theology of Karl Barth, who sees in the Word's assumption ofsinful flesh (sarx) the work of a loving God who "puts himself on the side of his own adversary" (62). Barth's Swiss Catholic counterpart Hans Urs von Balthasar likewise argued for the indispensable connection between the Incarnation and the cross because of the eternal Son's assumption of a humanity "afflicted by sin" and hence the concomitant penalties of death and judgment (66). This, in conjuction with von Balthasar's novel theology of Holy Saturday, in which Christ is actually abandoned by the Father to the torments of hell (as opposed to Aquinas's understanding of Christ's descent only to the hell of the just), Weinandy credits with having given new impetus to the understanding of Christ's substitionary death in Catholic soteriology. The heart of the book's argument is reached in its overview of various NT traditions concerning Jesus' "sinful humanity." Here Weinandy offers a fresh and often insightful reading...