20
back
5 / 06

#332 Does my Proposed Christology Deny Christ’s Humanity?

August 26, 2013
Q

Dear Dr. Craig,

My question regards your model of the incarnation, in particular its Appollinarianism. The three planks of your position are: 1) Christ had a distinct divine and human nature; 2) That the soul of Jesus is the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity; 3) That during His earthly life, Christ had an ordinary human consciousness. The problem I see with this model is that by claiming that some component of Jesus' human nature was the Logos, you actually undermine the claim He is truly human.

One facet of being human is that we are able to experience God directly. We can engage with the Trinity as an object of perception, where God presents Himself to our self-consciousness to impart grace and revelation. We are given a gift, whereby we can participate in the relationships and love of the Godhead, where God, an agent external to us, reaches down to us. Being distinct from God, as is mandatory of the creation, is a significant aspect of human nature, and thus shapes the nature of human relationships and experiences with God.

The primary challenge your model faces is that it means Jesus is unable to perceive the Creative Word of God as an object, which is fundamental to human nature. Being the Logos, He can only engage with the Son of God as a subject. This dissolves His humanity to nothing, for to be human one must be able to relate to God as an external object, as we are part of a created and distinct order. And yet Jesus did seem to experience God as an object, through prayer and faith. The consequence of your theory is that if Jesus is the Second Person of the Trinity's mind was in a human body having a human experience, Jesus is not truly human, as He cannot distinguish Himself from the divine reality, and subsequently can only experience God as a subject.

Moreover, if Christ's human nature relies upon the divine mind working at a limited human capacity, what happens after His days of flesh on earth? If the divine mind can only function at either divine capacity or human capacity, but not both simultaneously, then it must follow that the distinctive human nature of Christ was dispensed of at the ascension so as to affirm the priority of Christ's divine nature as He dwells at the right hand of the Father. Yet this leaves no room for the traditional catholic doctrine of the permanence of Jesus' humanity. If Jesus was truly God and man, then the assumption of humanity by the Logos could not be merely temporal, as part of human nature is to be resurrected like Christ. Thus, your theory leaves us with the radical conclusion that the Son of God discarded His human nature after His earthly life, which is contrary to traditional doctrine that Christ continues to have a divine and human nature.

So my question, Dr. Craig, is how would you respond to the challenges presented against your model of the Incarnation?

God Bless,

Nathan

United Kingdom

Dr. craig’s response


A

These are good questions, Nathan! I’d respond, first, by pleading “Not guilty!” and, second, by charging that the position you espouse seems to be implicitly Nestorian and, therefore, heretical.

My “Not guilty” plea will be easier to defend if I first explain my concerns about your own position. Orthodoxy requires that while Christ has two complete natures, human and divine, there is only one person in Christ; and that person, being the second person of the Trinity, is divine. Thus, there is no human person Jesus of Nazareth. There is only one person who is Christ, and that person is divine. Jesus is the incarnate second person of the Trinity. To say that there is, in addition to that divine person, another person who is human is Nestorianism, which errs by dividing the person of Christ into two persons, one human and one divine.

So when you object that on my view “Jesus is not truly human, as He cannot distinguish Himself from the divine reality,” and “Jesus is unable to perceive the Creative Word of God as an object. . . . Being the Logos, He can only engage with the Son of God as a subject,” your view is implicitly Nestorian. The word “He” is a personal pronoun referring to the person named “Jesus.” You’re saying that that person is distinct from the divine reality and the Word. That is Nestorian. Orthodoxy requires that Jesus is identical to the Word, the divine second person of the Trinity.

Does that imply that on orthodoxy Jesus cannot grasp himself as an object? No, for each of us grasps himself as an object when we think about ourselves. Then we use the word “me” instead of “I.” When speaking as subjects we use “I,” but when speaking of ourselves as objects we use the word “me.” Of course, Jesus as object or as subject remains divine, for there is only one person who is Christ, and that person is divine. What Jesus cannot do is grasp himself as distinct from the Word because he is the Word!

I think that this understanding exonerates me from the charge of denying Christ’s humanity. All I deny is that there is a human person distinct from the second person of the Trinity. That just is Christian orthodoxy. But I affirm that there is a body/soul composite which is the individual human nature of Christ. My view enjoys an advantage over the traditional view in making it perspicuous why that body/soul composite is not, contrary to expectation, a human person.

I agree with you that “Jesus did seem to experience God as an object, through prayer and faith.” But “God” in this sentence refers to God the Father. It was to God the Father that Jesus prayed (he wasn’t talking to himself!) and in God the Father that Jesus trusted.

What about Christ in his glorified state? I affirm that Jesus is bodily risen from the dead and therefore retains his human nature into eternity. Whether the full divine intellect comes to consciousness in the glorified state isn’t addressed by my proposed model. Whether or not it does, Jesus is and always was omniscient. That shows that while he was truly human (i.e., had a human nature), he was not merely human.

Nor does the model address the question whether the mind of the Logos even in the incarnate state of humiliation was not simultaneously conscious outside the flesh. Tom Morris in his The Logic of God Incarnate has some interesting analogies for that. I’m open to it but not committed to it. The salient point is that being non-omniscient is not an essential property of humanity.

So it seems to me that my proposed Christology remains orthodox.

- William Lane Craig