The Doctrine of Christ (part 9)

May 11, 2008     Time: 00:55:33


Craig continues on the Doctrine of Christ (Christology). Humanness of Jesus. Pre-duplication. Divine aspects of the personality of Jesus as subliminal during state of humiliation.

I wanted to just share a few thoughts on this July 4th weekend. I thought perhaps a good way to do this would simply be to turn to Lincoln’s words delivered in 1863 at Gettysburg on the occasion of the commemoration of the great battle that took place there. This was as the Civil War had dragged on for several years and the tide was beginning to turn. As Lincoln looked forward to healing the nation and toward restoring the unity of the nation he had to find a sort of common ground or common motivation that would serve as the uniting factor of the country. This is what he had to say at Gettysburg.

Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle field of that war. We come to dedicate a portion of it, as a final resting place for those who died here, that the nation might live. This we may, in all propriety do.

But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate – we can not consecrate – we can not hallow, this ground – The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have hallowed it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here; while it can never forget what they did here.

It is rather for us, the living, we here be dedicated to the great task remaining before us – that, from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here, gave the last full measure of devotion – that we here highly resolve these dead shall not have died in vain; that the nation, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

Lincoln, in trying to recall the nation to its roots, turned not to the Constitution but to those immortal words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence – we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. It was on that basis that Lincoln sought to call the nation again to unity.

Obviously, in one sense, all men are not created equal. People are born with differing abilities, differing amounts of intelligence, differing opportunities. So obviously it is not true in one sense that all people are created equal. So in what sense is it then that all persons are equal? When I was in high school civics class, we were taught that it meant that all persons had equal opportunity; that all people were created with equal opportunity in the United States. But, again, when you think about it that is not really true either. People are born often in terribly disadvantaged circumstances, dysfunctional families, poverty, lack of education, racial discrimination, all sorts of obstacles prevent many people from actualizing their full potential. So it is not really even true that all persons are equal in opportunity, much less ability.

So in what sense then is it that people are created equal? I think the key is to look at Jefferson’s text in its context. What he says is that we hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. In other words, the foundation for equality is equality before God.[1] It is not that all men are born equal, which they obviously are not; rather, they are created equal by a Creator who has endowed them with certain fundamental, unalienable human rights. That is to say, rights which cannot be taken away by any government or any power. Why? Because they are God-given rights. They are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights. It is in that sense that all human beings are equal. They are equal before God in being intrinsically valuable and endowed with certain rights that cannot be taken away.

The very first of these rights that Jefferson mentions is the right to life. They are endowed with unalienable rights and among these are life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness. The right to life is the first and most fundamental human right that the Creator has accorded us. So I think it is profoundly significant that on this July 4th we are confronted with the prospect of the resignation of Sandra Day O’Connor from the Supreme Court and the opportunity for our President to make an appointment of a strict constructionist who will adhere to the fundamental rights of man that are mentioned in the Declaration of Independence such as the right to life. This, I think, is a tremendously auspicious moment; a very profound moment in American history. The Supreme Court in recent years has become more and more activist in its legislating from the bench rather than holding to a strict constructionist view of the Constitution. You heard what John said in the sermon this morning about it being a living and breathing document, and Clarence Thomas saying, “It looks dead to me.” That is to say, this is not something that is malleable and changeable from generation to generation. It has a meaning that needs to be adhered to. The disenfranchisement of millions of unborn human beings in this country so that now in the United States it is perfectly legal on demand to abort an unborn baby right up through the ninth month of pregnancy is just morally unconscionable. I think we need to pray earnestly for our President now as he makes this appointment that he will appoint someone who will uphold fundamental human rights and especially the right to life. We need to pray that he will have courage of his convictions, because he campaigned on this basis. He is an evangelical Christian. The Senate, in turn, will have the courage and those who are in the Senate will have the strength to confirm this nominee.

I just want to encourage you as we think about July 4th and the fundamental rights that we are given, think about those millions and millions of unborn infants whose existence has been snuffed out, who have been denied the fundamental right to life, who has been treated as so much tissue and non-human biological mass, think of them and pray that our President will do the right thing and that the Senate will do the right thing in confirming a Supreme Court justice that will overturn Roe v Wade and restore the right to life to this segment of the American population.

[Opening prayer][2]

We have been looking at the subject of the person of Christ. In our most recent week, we had been attempting to lay out a rational doctrine of Christ as God and man. We saw that the first point of any such doctrine of Christ is that we need to agree with Chalcedon that Christ is one person having two natures. This is the foundation of any orthodox doctrine of Christ. Then secondly I made the suggestion that we agree with Apollinaris that the Logos – the second person of the Trinity – is the mind or the rational soul of Jesus of Nazareth. I emphasized that this second point is speculative and conjectural, but the goal here is to simply provide a possible model that would make sense of how Christ can be one person having two natures – one human and one divine. So as long as this is even a possibility it would show that any objections to the Christian faith based upon the alleged incoherence of the doctrine of the incarnation will fall to the ground. So I suggested that we adopt with Apollinaris the view that the Logos is the mind of Jesus of Nazareth. The Logos takes on human flesh and thereby becomes in effect the soul of Jesus of Nazareth. I suggested that in doing so the Logos brings to the flesh all of those properties which are sufficient for a complete human nature. So in the incarnate Christ you do have a complete human nature – a rational soul and body – and you have a complete divine nature, namely that of the second person of the Trinity. So in the union of the Logos with the flesh, you do have a complete human nature and a complete divine nature united together.


Student: Would it not be more appropriate to say that the Logos is the mind of God made incarnate?

Dr. Craig: I am not sure that that does the trick because if we think of a mind as a self-conscious subject, there isn’t a single mind of God. That would be unitarianism. Trinitarianism would say that the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are all three distinct persons. So there really are minds of God, rather than a mind of God. God is not a single self-conscious subject in Christian theology.[3] God is three persons. So I want to say that the Logos is the rational soul of the man Jesus of Nazareth. That is why Jesus is God incarnate because the Logos is the second person of the Trinity. He has a divine nature. But apart from that subtlety, I think it is appropriate to refer to Jesus as God incarnate. I think you can see why. He is the second person of the Trinity in human form. The whole fullness of deity bodily as Paul says in Colossians.


The difficulty with this form of Apollinarianism that I’ve suggested is that it would seem to founder upon the limitations exhibited by Jesus of Nazareth in the Gospel accounts. Jesus isn’t all-powerful. He is weak. He feels fatigue. He gets sleepy. He can be injured. He is not beyond space and time. He is not omnipresent it would seem. He is limited in knowledge. He doesn’t know the date of his Second Coming. He increases in wisdom and knowledge as he grows older from a boy. So how do you make sense of that if the mind of Jesus of Nazareth is the Logos?

Traditionally, Christian theologians have dealt with this problem by the device of reduplicative predication. That is to say, you predicate properties of the person but with respect to one nature or the other. So Jesus is omnipotent with respect to his divine nature, but not with respect to his human nature. Or he is omniscient with respect to his divine nature, but not with respect to his human nature. Or he is weak and limited with respect to his human nature, but not with respect to his divine nature. Predicates are attached to the person but with respect to one nature or the other.

This device would seem to work pretty well with certain properties like omnipotence. It is easy to see how the Logos could be omnipotent with respect to his divine nature, but with respect to his human body – his human nature – he would be physically non-omnipotent. He would only be able to lift a certain number of pounds, or run at a certain speed. Or, again, with respect to his necessity. It would seem easy to understand how the Logos could exist necessarily from all eternity with respect to his divine nature, but he would exist only contingently with respect to his human nature. His human nature began at conception when he was conceived in the womb of Mary, his mother. So his human nature would be non-necessary and contingent. So that device would seem to work nicely with certain attributes predicated of the person of Christ.

But with other attributes this device doesn’t seem to work very well. For example, how would it work with respect to omniscience on this proposal? How can you say he is omniscient with respect to his divine nature but he is ignorant with respect to his human nature? If there is a single conscious mind in Christ which just is the mind of the Logos then how can he be both ignorant and omniscient at the same time? It doesn’t seem to work so well there. Or take the attribute of impeccability. We mentioned this last week. Impeccability is the attribute of being incapable of sin. As God, the Logos is impeccable. He cannot sin. But then how can you say he is impeccable with respect to his divine nature, but that he is peccable with respect to his human nature? If the human nature is peccable, if the human nature could sin, then what would happen if Jesus of Nazareth sinned? How could he sin if he is the Logos in flesh? How do you make sense of saying he is impeccable with respect to the divine nature but not with respect to the human nature? So it doesn’t seem to work very well there either.[4]

Given that we are adopting this Apollinarian-style Christology rather than a Nestorian Christology (remember Nestorianism was the view that there were really two Sons or two persons), this device doesn’t seem to work very well in dealing with the evident limitations of Jesus of Nazareth. We need to qualify the view further, and we come to point three.

What I want to suggest under point three is that we should postulate that the divine aspects of Jesus’ personality were largely subliminal during his state of humiliation. You will remember the Reformed theologians differentiated between the state of humiliation which is the conception until his death and then the state of exaltation which is from his death forward in time. During his state of humiliation, that period from the conception through the death, the divine aspects of Jesus’ person were largely subliminal.

The Harvard philosopher William James spoke of what he called the subliminal self which is the seat of the unconscious – the subconscious would be a better way to put it – in the human person. This third point would draw upon the insight of depth psychology – that there is a lot more to a human person than the thin veneer of his waking consciousness. Rather, the waking consciousness is underlain by a subliminal self which is subconscious and can be the deep springs of behavior and action that we may only be very dimly aware of, if at all. The whole project, as you know, of psychoanalysis is to try to bring out those subliminal aspects that can often be the source of, say, neurosis or other psychological problems. For example, multiple personality disorders would be a good example of the eruption of subliminal aspects of a personality into waking consciousness. A person who is deeply troubled or schizophrenic with multiple personality disorder can have a number of distinct personalities, one of which will be the waking consciousness and the other ones are subconscious. It might switch, and the other individual becomes conscious. Sometimes there will be one of those individuals who will be the governing controller of the other ones in this multiple personality.

That is not to say that a person who is suffering in that way is more than one person in a literal sense. Literally there is just one person there even though there may be multiple personalities. There is a difference between a personality and a person. There is one person there – one body-soul composite – but within that person there are levels of consciousness, and there may be within this subconscious realm personalities that will emerge at different distinct times.

Let me give another example from the phenomenon of hypnosis. Hypnosis also gives another striking illustration of the reality of the subliminal and its importance.[5] Charles Harris in his book on Christology points out that a person who is under hypnosis may be informed about certain facts and then instructed by the hypnotist to forget them in which case he says, “When he awakens the knowledge is truly in his mind and it shows itself in unmistakable ways especially by causing him to perform certain actions which but for the possession of this knowledge he would not have performed.” You’ve all seen instances where a person has been hypnotized and he will do things based upon what he has been told even though he has no consciousness of it. It is in his subconscious but not in his waking consciousness. Harris goes on to say, “What is still more extraordinary, a sensitive hypnotic subject may be made both to see and to not see the same object at the same moment. For example, he may be told not to see a lamppost whereupon he becomes in the ordinary sense quite unable to see it. Nevertheless, he does see it because he avoids it and cannot be induced to precipitate himself against it.” So somebody can be hypnotized not to see that table and chair in which case he literally sees nothing there. But if he were to walk to the doorway, he wouldn’t run into it. He would walk around it. He really does see it, but he is not aware of it. He both in one sense sees it and doesn’t see it at the same time.

What I want to suggest is that in the incarnation during the state of humiliation the Logos allowed only those aspects of his person to be part of Christ’s waking consciousness which were compatible with typical human experience. The vast bulk of his cognitive perfections lay in the subliminal like the mass of an iceberg floating beneath the surface. On this model that I am suggesting, Christ is one person but in that person both conscious and subconscious elements are differentiated in a theologically significant way. It gives Christ a genuine typical human waking consciousness even though he has a divine subliminal.

This doesn’t imply Nestorianism. It doesn’t imply that there are two persons in Christ anymore than my having a conscious life and a subconscious mind make me two persons. I am one person with different levels of consciousness, and so is Christ.

I think that this model can help to provide a very satisfying and plausible picture of the Jesus that we have painted in the Gospels. For example, in his conscious experience, Jesus grew in wisdom and in knowledge in the same way that any ordinary human child does. We don’t have the monstrosity of the baby Jesus lying at Mary’s breast all the time contemplating the infinitesimal calculus or the laws of Newton’s physics or quantum mechanics or something of that sort. He was like a genuine baby, and like a normal Jewish boy growing up.

Similarly, in his conscious experience, Jesus of Nazareth was genuinely tempted just as we are. He felt the lure of temptation. He felt the temptations of Satan to do wrong, even though he is, in fact, impeccable. It is impossible for Jesus to sin because he is the Logos. He could not have sinned. But in his waking consciousness he could feel the allure of sin and he could feel the temptations and had to resist them just as we are called upon to resist them. So the enticements of sin were not something that Jesus could just blow away like smoke as though they had no effect on him; they just bounced off of him like Superman. Not at all. He felt the allure of sin and the temptation of sin, and to resist that temptation required reliance upon God his Father, discipline, and moral strength in order to resist.

Similarly, in his waking consciousness, Jesus of Nazareth was genuinely ignorant of many things.[6] He didn’t know, for example, the date of his Second Coming. He would be ignorant, no doubt, of many other things that a first century Jew would not be aware of even though he was undergirded by this divine subliminal subconscious and therefore kept from error and always illuminated by it as he began his ministry. Sometimes you would see this subliminal manifested in supernatural knowledge on Jesus’ part during his ministry. For example, when he says to the disciples, “Go and cast a hook into the sea and a fish will come up and in the fish you will find a shekel and with that you can pay the temple tax.” Clearly there the divine subliminal is manifesting itself in the waking consciousness of Jesus of Nazareth. But for the most part Jesus would have possessed a typical waking human consciousness.

So even though the Logos possesses all knowledge – he is omniscient – and would have been able to answer any question from quantum mechanics to auto mechanics, nevertheless, there is no reason to think that if you had asked Jesus something about auto mechanics that he would have known the answer to that question in his waking consciousness.

This is just a reflection of what Paul says in Philippians – he humbled himself so deeply did he stoop. He humbled himself so deeply that he allowed most of his omniscient mind to be eclipsed and to take on this human consciousness to identify with us.

Moreover, in his waking consciousness, Jesus felt the full gamut of human experiences. The anxieties and the pressures and the tensions of life. He felt physical hurt and pain and fatigue. He wasn’t like Superman even though the divine subconscious couldn’t be affected by such things.

This model would also preserve the integrity of Jesus’ prayer life. The prayers are not just mere showpieces. Rather, Jesus of Nazareth had to be dependent upon his heavenly Father moment by moment in order to carry out the ministry that God had called him to. This would also explain how Jesus could be perfected through suffering, as it says in the book of Hebrews. He learned moral perfection through what he suffered. As he endured trial and pain and fatigue, he increased in wisdom and knowledge and in favor with God and man. He had to, like we, be moment-by-moment dependent upon the filling of the Holy Spirit in his life. At his baptism he was anointed by the Holy Spirit, he had to be filled by the Holy Spirit, and guided by the Holy Spirit in order to successfully carry out the mission that his Father had given him.

So when we see Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane praying in agony, in terrible distress, this is real. This is not just some sort of play acting. This is what the second person of the Trinity in this incarnate state actually went through. It is the genuine struggle of the incarnate Logos in his waking human consciousness with sin, the devil, and evil.

So I think the traditional objections against the Apollinarian-type of view that I suggested will melt way in the face of this understanding of the incarnation because here we have a Jesus who is not only divine but who also shares the limitations of our human condition. As the author of Hebrews nicely puts it, we have a high priest who is able to identify with all of our weaknesses. He has been tempted in every way such as we are and yet without sin. So he knows what we go through and can sympathize with us.

I think this model makes good sense not only of the classical doctrine of one person with two natures, but also of the biblical portrait of Jesus in the Gospels. I think that this model can help to illicit in us praise and wonder at the God who would condescend so low as to take on our very human condition in the way that he has for our sake and for our salvation – a limitation that drove him all the way to the cross to become the sin bearer for the sins of the world.[7]

My heart rejoices when I sing a Christmas carol like the following words written by Charles Wesley:

Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
“Glory to the newborn King!”


Student: Can we draw a distinction between this model and the Kenotic model?

Dr. Craig: Yes, I can. The difference is that on the Kenotic model the Logos divested himself of certain divine attributes. He was not omniscient. He was not omnipotent. He was not omnipresent. And so forth. This is radically different from Kenoticism even though in certain ways it may resemble it in that you get a Jesus with this limited consciousness. But by differentiating between the subliminal and the waking consciousness we are able to preserve unchanged the divine nature of the Logos. He gives up none of those attributes. But we don’t do so in such a way as to violate the portrait of Jesus that we have in the Gospel who did experience these kinds of limitations. So I think it is really important that we see the difference between this and Kenoticism which I criticized at some length when we did point one.

Student: A couple weeks ago I asked about how we think of Christ as the second person of the Trinity now in his exalted state. You talked about the right hand of the Father with his human body. Right? Based on what we are discussing now, the state of humiliation being over, other than the human body does he have any human consciousness?

Dr. Craig: I think the answer to that is, “I don’t know.” The model doesn’t make a pronouncement on that. I wondered that myself. Perhaps even in the state of exaltation, the Logos limits himself in such a way as to have a human consciousness. Or maybe with the state of exaltation he comes to full and conscious clarity of his omniscient reservoir. Maybe in the state of exaltation it is kind of a combination where he has a waking consciousness but he is able at will to call upon the resources of the subliminal so that they are immediately within reach. The model doesn’t pronounce on that. It is an open question I would say.

Student: You are saying that there was a self-limitation. Let me ask you this then. In that model, would Christ have become aware of his messiahship as a human being, or would he have known from the beginning? How would you deal with that?

Dr. Craig: This is an excellent question that you are asking. I think the only way to answer that is to turn to the pages of the New Testament itself. You can’t answer that question in advance. You’ve got to read the Gospels. When we read the Gospels, I think what we discover is that by the age of 12 Jesus already had a special sense of his Sonship because you will remember when he lingers behind in the Temple and his parents are distraught, they are frantic because he is missing, they search for him for three days and when they find him there he is in the Temple disputing with the scribes and the lawyers – the experts – on Old Testament law. His answer to them is, “Didn’t you know that I had to be about my Father’s business?” So there is already, I think, there a sense of his special Sonship. Certainly with his baptism, I think his messianic self-consciousness is fully clear because you have the anointing by the Holy Spirit and the voice from heaven, “This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased.” Then Jesus makes all these messianic claims.[8] Here one would simply unpack what the claims of Christ are. What was the radical self-consciousness of Jesus of Nazareth. I think you can show that he had a radical self-consciousness of being the unique Son of God, that he thought of himself as the Son of Man prophesied by Daniel in the 7th chapter to whom all authority on earth would be given and that all peoples and nations might worship and serve him. I think he had a sense of being the Messiah – that is, the Christ – the promised one and deliverer of Israel. I don’t know any other way to explain the data persuasively apart from the fact that the historical Jesus thought that he was the promised Messiah.

Student: He grew in wisdom. You are saying part of that wisdom may have been the wisdom of who he was and why he was there and why he came. So there was a growing of that.

Dr. Craig: Right.

Student: Was there a point where he would have realized I am Messiah? This is so hard. It is hard to even ask the question. In his humanity was he aware of his divinity? If he has to call upon omniscience, is there a point where he realizes, I can call on omniscience? Is there a point where he didn’t know that?

Dr. Craig: This is a very good question because awareness of being the Messiah was not necessarily an awareness of divinity. There were lots of messianic pretenders in Judaism of that day. From the first century through the second century after Christ one after another these messianic pretenders came on the scene and were dispatched by the Romans in the same way. So claiming him Messiah isn’t necessarily a claim to divinity. But when you look at Jesus’ claims to be, for example, the Son of God in a unique way, or the Son of Man (this figure in Daniel 7) and you look at his word at the trial scene where the high priest says to him, “Are you the Christ, [that is, Are you the Messiah?] The Son of the Blessed?” And Jesus says, “I am. And here after you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of power and coming with the clouds of heaven” - virtually a quotation out of Daniel chapter 7. Then he is immediately condemned for blasphemy. So I think you see that, yes, Jesus had a divine self-consciousness that was part of the messianic self-consciousness that he had.

A very good book on this if you are interested would be Ben Witherington’s book The Christology of Jesus. Often we don’t think of Jesus himself having a Christology, but Ben argues (I think very persuasively) he did, and he lists something like thirteen data points (some of which I just mentioned) which must be taken into account for any adequate self-understanding of Jesus. When you do that I think you will see that Jesus had an awareness of his own divinity.

Student: Can you expand a little bit on when you talked about the filling of the Holy Spirit and how that works with the Logos – where it would reside.

Dr. Craig: This is really interesting because you see all of the persons of the Trinity at work in the ministry of Jesus of Nazareth. It wasn’t as though Jesus of Nazareth just did it on his own. Rather, with a limited human consciousness he needed to be filled with the Holy Spirit. So Jesus was a charismatic. If you look at the Gospels, read them in light of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the life of Jesus. Over and over again you will see that it is the Spirit that drove him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. It was the Spirit which was directing the life and ministry of Jesus and giving him the strength to go on. Of course, it was the Father who had given him the mission to fulfill. He said, “I am doing the works of my Father. I am doing the works of him who sent me.” There is this constant sense of being sent by the Father that Jesus had. You see in the life of Jesus all of the persons of the Trinity at work as the incarnate Son, having taken on human limitations, needs to depend upon the Father and the Spirit in order to successfully discharge the ministry that the Father had given him.[9] This, again, beautifully models for us how the Christian life is to be lived, because we, too, (if we are to successfully live a Christian life) cannot do so in our own strength, in the power of the human nature. We need to depend upon the Holy Spirit and his controlling and empowering and filling our lives to successfully lead the Christian life. That is why Paul in his epistles says, Be filled with the Holy Spirit. Walk in the Spirit and you will not fulfill the desires of the flesh. Jesus models for us what it is to live a successful Christian life in the Spirit.

Student: What mechanism would allow Jesus in his human waking consciousness to access the subliminal divine consciousness?

Dr. Craig: Well, I am not sure what to say to that apart from it would be the faculty of the will. Souls are endowed with various faculties such as cognitive faculties, intellectual faculties, but also volitional faculties. So it would be based upon his own volitions as to whether or not he would will to do something of that sort. I am not sure what to say beyond that.

Student: If you have a barrier that you can go through it is not a barrier.

Dr. Craig: Right. The question is open as to what degree the incarnate Logos had access to this subliminal. You could say he had free access to it but simply chose not to do it, or you could say that perhaps in some way he had self-limited himself so that apart from, say, the Father’s enlightenment of his mind he couldn’t access it. Those are open questions as far as the model is concerned.

Student: Seems more like a divine membrane.

Dr. Craig: That would be a metaphor for it. There is not a literal membrane but you can think of it in those terms. I think of it as something that is submerged and sort of bubbles up to the surface and breaking into consciousness. So this could be a gradual dawning of awareness or something like that. I think we can’t answer these questions in advance; we can only answer them by looking at the Gospels and reading the life of Jesus and saying How does it look? The way he had interactions with people. The way he lived. What does it look like? So this is work for the New Testament scholar, not for the philosopher, I think.

Student: Did Christ actually have the ability to sin when he was on the Earth or not?

Dr. Craig: I think we have to say no. He was impeccable.

Student: So he was not even capable of sinning?

Dr. Craig: Correct.

Student: Then what was the point of him being tempted then?

Dr. Craig: The point would be that he would need to resist temptation, and to do that he would need to draw upon the strength of the Holy Spirit and the Father. He could identify with us and our weakness. Remember the author of the book of Hebrews says that we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who has been tempted in every respect just as we are, and yet without sin. It is part of his identifying with the human condition that he could feel the temptation to sin, and then in the strength of the Holy Spirit resist that and conquer it.

Student: So in that sense he only had one will?

Dr. Craig: That is right. That is a very perceptive question that I was not going to get into but you raised it so I will get into it. What you are raising is the question of Monothelitism versus Dyothelitism. Now, what are those? Monothelitism from “mono” means that Christ had one will. Dyothelitism (like a “dyad”) means that he has two wills. And I have to say that historically the church has affirmed Dyothelitism – that Christ had two wills. He had a human will and he had a divine will. But I think that that almost makes Nestorianism inescapable because wills are faculties of persons, not natures.[10] If you’ve got two wills it seems to me you’ve got two persons. This was a decision that was made very late in the game. I think it was something like the fifth ecumenical council in the 600s, somewhere around 686. I think one of the most controversial of the councils.

The view that I am suggesting, I think, does imply Monothelitism; namely, Christ had a single will. In that sense, this view is heretical in that it goes against one of the ecumenical councils which affirms Dyothelitism. But I would simply say as a Protestant I take all theology to the bar of Scripture even the creeds. Even the conciliar ecumenical creeds must be judged before the bar of Scripture because church tradition does not have the same authority as Scripture does. I don’t see anything unscriptural about this. In fact, I think the Scripture is Monothelitism. When Jesus prays in the garden, “Not my will but thine be done” he is not praying to himself. That is not the human will of Christ talking to the divine will. That is the Son talking to the Father. The Son is saying, Not my will be done, but Father, thy will be done. I think this implies Monothelitism. Christ had a single will which was perfectly submitted to the will of the Father.

But our very astute class member here has served to out me on my Monothelitism. All I can say, again, in defense of that is that there are a good many evangelicals who are Monothelitists, not just myself, and that ultimately even the creeds have to make peace with Scripture. But technically speaking, you are correct, this contradicts the last ecumenical council.

Student: Could you explain a little bit further what you were saying before about God having many minds. I find that very, very disturbing because if God had more than one mind then they would have to, by definition, agree with each other, and by definition they would be one mind.

Dr. Craig: Oh, I think when you say people are of one mind, that is only a metaphorical sense. If I say to Greg, “You and I are of one mind about the importance of small groups in our class” we just mean we agree with each other. That is just a metaphor.

Student: I understand that, but as you said, the faculty of the soul is the mind and the will. The function of the mind is to know and the will is to love. You are basically saying (if I am understanding your definition of mind correctly) that God can know different things. In other words, there has to be one mind to God.

Dr. Craig: That is unitarianism. I think that that is simply mistaken. If we define “mind” to mean a self-conscious subject, the doctrine of the Trinity is, I think, that there are three minds in God – the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. If you think that God has a single self-consciousness, you are a unitarian. That is what Islam believes or Judaism.

Student: No, no. What I disagree with is you say there are many minds to God. You are saying there are three minds. OK. That’s OK. You said many minds to God.

Dr. Craig: There would be a serious heresy if I were convicted of that! I think as trinitarians we want to affirm that there are three self-conscious subjects in the Godhead, and that these three all agree. In that sense, they are of one mind. They all agree. But that is in a metaphorical sense. There are three persons in one God. If you are interested, I think we have in the tape archives available on the website the lessons on the Trinity that we went through previous to this in which we discussed this at some length.[11]



[1] 4:58

[2] 11:03

[3] 15:03

[4] 20:00

[5] 24:46

[6] 30:03

[7] 35:09

[8] 40:08

[9] 45:04

[10] 50:07

[11] Total Running Time: 55:34 (Copyright © 2008 William Lane Craig)