Incarnation Anyway: Arguments for Supralapsarian Christology

By Merrick, James R. A. | Anglican Theological Review, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

Incarnation Anyway: Arguments for Supralapsarian Christology


Merrick, James R. A., Anglican Theological Review


Incarnation Anyway: Arguments for Supralapsarian Christology. By Edwin Christian van Driel. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. 194 pp. $74.00 (cloth).

In this terse yet exacting monograph, Edwin van Driel undertakes to fulfill three objectives. Most basically, he offers an analysis of the supralapsarian Christologies of Friedrich Schleiermacher, Isaac Dorner, and Karl Barth. At the heart of the work, however, is an attempted typology of three different supralapsarian Christologies of which the three aforementioned thinkers are representative. Finally, van Driel hopes to commend the third type, eschatological supralapsarianism, and to work toward refashioning it through a proposal of lus own.

The defining mark of a "supndapsarian Christology" is it construes the Incarnation as essential to the divine purpose regardless of the Fall. The Incarnation is not a consequence of the Fall, but rather logically precedes it, on account of the divine purpose itself, in the ordering of the divine decrees. Hence, "incarnation anyway."

Schleiermacher exemplifies the "argument from creation" type of supralapsarian Christology. Because Schleiermacher insisted on creation's "absolute dependence" upon the creator, he could not construe the Incarnation as a response to creation's condition. Schleiermacher understood the divine purpose in creation to be the impartation of God's life to all. Christ, therefore, is sent to impart the divine life to the created. Sin, as van Driel reads Schleiermacher, is what God uses to provoke humanity to come under the influence of Christ. It is this last portion that proves problematic for van Driel, and why he thinks Schleiermacher s argument is flawed.

Dorner offers a supralapsarian Christology on the basis of an "argument from redemption." The course of this argument derives from Dorners conception of the "ethical" and "love" as the nature of the ethical. The Incarnation is necessary on this account because ethical relationships are nurtured by religion and religion is nurtured by revelation; Christ is the perfection of revelation. However, van Driel finds Dorner's system internally at odds.

The third type, the "argument from consummation," is found in the theology of Barth. Not only does Barths thought receive the most attention from van Driel, but it also forms the basis for his own proposal. Earth's supralapsarian Chris tology has its shape in his actualism. Being influenced by scholastic Reformed theology, Barth elevated election to the prime place in his understanding of the divine decrees. Specifically, God's election is not the election of some individuals to salvation and others to reprobation, but the election of Jesus Christ. In the process of his exposition of Barth, van Driel supplements the debate between himself and Bruce McCormack that transpired in the pages of the Scottish Journal of Theology. …

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