Every now and then, on a Friday, I’ll step into the deep waters of Philosophy, ramble away on some idea and maybe even interact with it. Most of the time, a real philosopher could probably read my drivel and speak into it offering a corrective—but for now I’ll speak from ignorance. After all, it’s Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Is Jesus’ divinity incompatible with his humanity?” in under 700 words. Heh.
To get there, we probably have to figure out what is the stuff that is perceived to be incompatible. People come up with stupid ideas of what is essential (like erring) but that wouldn’t do. You have to get to the stuff without which you wouldn’t have either a human or a God.
First, what attributes are essential for a being to be the ultimate God? Well, he would have to be a necessary being, eternal (without a beginning or ending), have self-existence (not contingent on other beings), be all powerful, all knowing, not restricted by space, completely free, and I’d also say all-good.
A human on the other hand is a weird bag. You can surely say they’re contingent, but that’s on the basis of being creature. No single human is essentially necessary and, since they have a starting point, they are not eternal (even if they can live on into eternity). But how does that differentiate them from any other creature like a dog or an angel? Really doesn’t. So we need to come up with a definition of a human that ties up their physical creaturleiness and their differentiation from physical creatures. Well, unlike all other animals, humans can reason, judge, and decide. So maybe we can define humans as rational animals.
Jesus would then be something that is both divine and a rational animal. But how does that work?
Well, maybe he is 2/3rds human and 1/3rd God so that he’s a rational animal with God’s soul/mind. But that’s problematic since it implies that God was only 2/3rds committed to saving the human race: he came to save the rational animal part but not the soul/mind.
Or maybe Jesus was really a composite of two beings: one who is God and the other who is Jesus. But then that’s problematic because it has Jesus incapable of doing the things God needed done and it has God not doing the things God said he would do. More so, in both cases, the Bible seems to insist that Christ is fully God (the fullness of the Godhead) and fully man (bodily).
What if we suggest that God became human but what he did first was (1) set aside his divine attributes or (2) muted his divine attributes? But that’s a serious problem. If (2) that means that God’s essential attributes can be dimmed and God still remains God; if (1) that means God can set aside essential attributes and still remain God: both meaning that those attributes weren’t essential to God being God. But beyond that, how is it possible for God to set aside or mute the divine attribute of eternity, aseity, or necessity? That would make zero sense.
So maybe something else is going on. What if God already has some of the essential attributes of humans as an essential part of his divine attributes? If that was the case, then God taking on a human nature wouldn’t result in setting aside anything but adding something he didn’t have before, and wasn’t essential to Him. Maybe “rationality” is already an essential attribute of God so all he’s doing is taking on that animal-aspect so that he remains fully God, fully human, but on account that he already had what is essential to humans within him. Jesus Christ would then be one person with two natures that operate as one because the human rationality is originally God’s rationality.
If that was the case, it would mean that humans are humans on account of being made according to the mold, as it were. God becoming human and remaining God is amazing but not incompatible (double negative?): it makes sense.
2 replies on “Philosophy Fridays: The God-Man?”
“A human on the other hand is a weird bag.” You know, that’s a good point. When people ask about Jesus being both God and man, I’m not convinced they’ve really defined what a human is first.
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