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#112 Trinity and Incarnation

June 08, 2009

Dr. Craig,

First let me start by saying that your defenders class has become part of my daily routine. I use part of my lunch hour (about 45 minutes) to listen on my ipod and take notes.

While listening to the Doctrine of Christ series, which I've completed by the way, only one question had me on the edge of my seat and I was burning hoping someone in the class would ask! You were giving a plausible theory on how to reconcile the fact that the Trinity consists of 3 persons, yet Jesus, to qualify as fully God and fully human, might pose the problem of adding a "4th" person to the God head. You then went on to discuss that it was possible that all the attributes of the Logos were kept in the subconscious of Jesus' mind. What about the attribute of omnipresence? Omnipresence doesn't have the quality of being conscious or unconscious no more than my hair color being so whether I recognize it or not.

So in short, how to you reconcile the divine attribute of omnipresence in the Logos and the limited physical body of Jesus?



Dr. Craig,

Thank you for you ministry. Your work and your example are a real inspiration.

I've been studying the Trinity, and I have a question about how the Trinity and the Incarnation relate to each other. As I understand it, in the Incarnation a human nature was added to and united with the eternal divine nature of the Son. As I understand the Trinity. The divine nature is one, a unity in which the three divine persons subsist. So the question is, if the divine nature of the Son is conjoined to a human nature, doesn't that affect the divine nature of the Father and the Spirit as well, since they share the same, undivided divine nature with the Son? I struggle to understand how the union of two natures in Christ is "compartmentalized" in the Son, without in some way "adulterating" the divine nature in the other two persons. True, the Person of Christ is distinct from the Father and Spirit, but all three share in the one divine nature, which now seems to include the human nature of Christ.

I hope this question is clear. Trying to understand the Trinity can be confusing at times. Thank you for any help you can provide on this issue.

Clark in the Bronx

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Dr. craig’s response


As both of you discern, the doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation are closely connected in very interesting ways. Let's take your question first, Clark. Yes, God's nature is one both in the sense that there is an essence of God comprised of certain properties which all of the members of the Trinity share, such as aseity, necessity, eternity, omnipotence, omniscience, etc., and in the sense that there is just one concrete entity which is God (see Question 111 on individual natures). I think that the persons of the Trinity, who are distinct from one another, also have contingent properties which are not shared by all three persons. For example, only the Son has the property of having a human as well as a divine nature.

Now your question is how the Son can assume a human nature without the nature of the other two persons' being affected. I take it that you think that if the Son is incarnate, then it follows that the Father and the Spirit must become incarnate, too, since they all share the same nature. The mistaken assumption behind your question, I think, is that it is the nature rather than the person of the Son which becomes incarnate. The doctrine of the Incarnation is not that the Son's divine nature somehow took on a human nature. Rather the claim is that the second Person of the Trinity, who has a divine nature, took on in addition to his divine nature a human nature as well. So you shouldn't think of the Incarnation in terms of two natures' somehow blending together; indeed, the classical formulation is that the natures remain unchanged and distinct in the Incarnation. They are united only in the sense that there is one person who comes to have them both.

So it's quite mistaken to say that "the one divine nature . . . now seems to include the human nature of Christ." Au contraire, the natures remain distinct even for the Son. This is evident in the fact that Son's having a human nature is a contingent fact about him; in possible worlds in which God refrains from creation altogether the Second Person of the Trinity has no human nature. So his humanity cannot be part of his divine nature or essence.

Since neither the Father nor the Spirit took on a human body, they do not have human natures in addition to the divine nature. Only the Son assumed flesh and so took on a human nature.

Now in answer to your question, Aaron, my goal was to find a biblically faithful and logically coherent account of the Incarnation that ascribes to Christ two complete natures, human and divine, but does not postulate two persons in Christ, a human person and a divine person (a heresy known as Nestorianism). I do this by postulating that the soul of Jesus of Nazareth was the divine Logos. In order to make such an account biblically adequate, I differentiate in a theologically significant way between Jesus' conscious life and his subconscious during his earthly sojourn (his so-called state of humiliation).

Now you want to know how such an account deals with the omnipresence of the Logos during his state of humiliation. If you'll listen to the Defenders' podcasts on the doctrine of God, you'll find that when it comes to omnipresence, I take this attribute to mean, not that God is spread out like an aether throughout space, but that He is cognizant of and causally active at every point in space. That can still hold for the Logos during his state of humiliation. It just wasn't part of Jesus' conscious life.

I suspect your difficulty is that you're thinking of the Incarnation as the Logos' somehow shrinking himself down to the size of a human body. But then you're making the same mistake as Clark: thinking of the Incarnation as something the divine nature does rather than something a divine person does. The Logos takes on a human body as his own; but he does not cease to be cognizant of and causally active at every point in space.

- William Lane Craig