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A.A. Hodge on the Universal Kingship of the God-Man

Several months ago I posted on the Old Princeton theologian A.A. Hodge’s views on “civil government as an instrument in the promotion of redemption” in his Commentary on the Confession of Faith, where he asserts, in his comments on the (revised) WCF 23, that “in the development of the plan of redemption the God-man as mediatorial King has assumed the government of the universe.” As I noted in that post, cosmic kingship is currently exercised not by an abstracted “God,” vaguely thought of, perhaps, as distinct from Jesus Christ, or by the Logos, conceived as, perhaps, operating (somehow) independently of the Incarnate Christ, but by the Incarnate Christ himself.

Hodge makes a similar point about the rule of the God-Man in his discussion of chapter 8 on Christ the Mediator. The biblical witness affirms that Christ is the sovereign head over all things (e.g., Eph. 1 and Col. 1); and Chalcedonian Christology really requires that this current kingship and universal sovereignty therefore be conceived as exercised by the Incarnate Christ as such (and not by “God” or the Logos), because there is only one Person in the God-Man, and that Person is the incarnated divine Son. While the divine and human natures are indissolubly linked in the Incarnate Christ, there is no “Person” of the Son apart from the One who is incarnate, having taken to himself a human nature, soul and body, and united it to his divine nature. The Person who rules as king, therefore–for it is a Person who rules, and not a nature–is the Incarnate Second Person, the God-Man Jesus Christ.1 Hodge writes:

There are in Christ, therefore, two natures, but one person; a human as well as a divine nature, but only a divine person. His humanity began to exist in the womb of the Virgin, but his person existed from eternity. His divinity is personal, his humanity impersonal, and his divine nature and his human nature one Person. (p. 195)

If, then, the biblical witness affirms that sovereignty has been handed over to Christ (and it does; see above), then it must have been committed to the incarnate, mediatorial, prophetic, priestly, kingly Christ, for there is no other. Thus Hodge comments on Christ’s mediatorial kingship:

Christ is sovereign Head over all things to his Church….This lordship differs from that which belongs essentially to the Godhead: (a.) Because it is given to him by the Father as the reward of his obedience and suffering. Phil. ii. 6-11. (b.) The object and design of this mediatorial kingship has special reference to the upbuilding and glory of the redeemed Church. (c.) The dignity and authority belong not to his deity abstractly, but to his entire person as God-man. This power and lordship Christ already possesses, and it extends over all creatures in all worlds….And of this kingdom there shall be no end…. (pp. 189-90)

For Hodge, Christ is already enthroned on high as universal king, and his current royal sway, exercised over all creatures, is directed to the good of his Church, as Paul teaches in Eph. 1. None of this, to be sure, establishes the precise way(s) in which that sovereignty is wielded by Christ, nor does it establish how earthly rulers are to serve in their own subordinate roles–2 though, as noted in the previous post linked above, Hodge, a subscriber of the WCF’s revisions on the civil magistrate, did believe that nations and rulers should acknowledge Christ as king and that Christian magistrates (as he calls them) had, in the exercise of their God-ordained authority, a role to play in the promotion of piety and the protection of the Church, whether one agrees with his particular formulation of that role or not.

This post is, rather, an exercise in retrieval, and establishes the conception of one Presbyterian theologian on the current constitution of the government of the universe.

  1. None of this is to deny the so-called extra Calvinisticum (really the extra patristicum), because the issue in which I am interested here is not the omnipresence of Christ’s divine nature, but the Person ruling as king.
  2. This topic is treated through the lens of several sixteenth- and seventeenth-century theologians in an ongoing series of posts: Calvin, Musculus, Henry, Bucer, Strigel, Fabricius 1, Fabricius 2, Fabricius 3, Fabricius 4.

By E.J. Hutchinson

E.J. Hutchinson is Assistant Professor of Classics at Hillsdale College.

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