Could God become a Man? Making Sense of the Incarnation
Why Does It Matter?
The Christian faith makes the claim that God became a human because he loves us in order to save us, so if it is impossible then Christianity is false [though other forms of theism could still be true], but if the incarnation is possible then there is the possibility that God cares about us as Christianity claims.
“What has not been assumed cannot be restored; it is what is united with God that is saved” Gregory of Nazianzus, Epistle to Cledonius ‘Against Appollinaris’
What is the Incarnation claim?
That God came in the flesh (as a human being)
Is it possible? Not if there is no God. But what if there was a God who cared about humanity?
Is it coherent? Could a being be both divine and human at the same time?
Did it happen? Is there historical evidence that it took place in the life of Jesus?
Why Think God Exists?
Belief in God can be properly basic. See: Plantinga, Alvin. Warranted Christian Belief. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2000.
The Kalam Cosmological Argument. See:
Leibniz’s Cosmological Argument
Teleological Argument. See: and
Moral Argument. See:
Ontological Argument. See:
Why Think God cares? (Why think God would incarnate?)
God as the greatest possible being must be loving, and hence he would care about any creatures, he has created.
Objection: even if God cares could that mean he just manifests himself physically or sends prophets, is a literal incarnation absolutely necessary?
“In brief, Anselm’s theory in his Cur Deus Homo is this: By sinning, mankind incurred an enormous debt against God. It is so large that only God can pay it. But it is mankind that owes it. Hence the need for a God-man.” Debating Christian Theism (p. 399). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
To show us what God is like (Heb 1:3; Col 1:15)
To show us how to be truly human (Heb 2:18; 4:15; 1 Cor 11:1; 1 Pet 2:21)
Is it Coherent?
“The term “God,” is traditionally understood, signifies a personal being who is worthy of worship.” Gould, BTCOG, pg 1.
The being who is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnibenevolent.
God refers to the greatest possible being (or maximally excellent being).
Katherin A Rogers, An Anselmian Defense of the Incarnation in Debating Christian Theism. Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition. Chapter 29.
The critic, such as Martin, may respond that you have not really considered what the Incarnation entails. The Chalcedonian claim is that Christ is a single person with two natures, a divine and a human nature, “which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation.” 7 But some of the attributes of a divine nature seem to be logically incompatible with attributes of a human nature. For example, a single person cannot be both omnipotent and limited in power, can he? 8 Yet if Jesus is indeed the Son of God, then He is identical with the Word, “but given the principle of the indiscernibility of identicals— if two things are identical then they have all of their properties in common— an obvious logical absurdity can be generated: Jesus, the Son of God, both has and does not have certain attributes.” 9. Debating Christian Theism (pp. 394-395). Oxford University Press, USA. Kindle Edition.
A Definition of Omnipotence
Descartes is one of the few people to endorse universal possiblism – that God can do absolutely anything.
But there are things God cannot do: 2 Tim 2:11-13 “God cannot deny Himself” meaning he cannot do anything contrary to his nature.
The Coherence of Omnipotence?
Can God make a rock too heavy for himself to lift?
If he can then there will now be something he cannot do, namely lift this too heavy rock.
If he can’t then there is something he cannot do, namely make a too heavy rock.
A Better Definition of Omnipotence: God lacks nothing by way of power.
So God not being able to sin, suggests that sinning is not a power but lacking the power to restrain oneself from sinning (hence there is no power to sin).
Or another definition "the ability to bring about any state of affairs which is logically possible for any one in that situation to bring about."
A Definition of Omniscience: God lacks nothing by way of knowledge.
Is Omnipresence Coherent? God is all-present
Should we think of God as “spread out” through the universe like an invisible gas? Or should we think of God as being fully present at every point of space at the same time?
A Definition of Omnipresence: God is aware of and able to act at any point in space.
What does it mean to be human?
Perhaps something relating to having rationality, volitional, morality, creativity, being relational / social creatures, hierarchy – rule over lower things (earth, plants and animals)…
Did it happen historically in the life of Jesus?
Is the evidence from the Bible convincing? Matthew 1-2; Luke 1-2; John 1:1-18; Phil 2:5-11; Galatians 4:4-5
Christ as truly divine but not human – docetism
Truly human but not divine – ebionitism
Truly human but quasi-divine (arianism, adoptionism)
Quasi-human but truly divine (apollinarianism),
Quasi-human and quasi divine/human / neither human nor divine (tertium quid)
One person with two natures: truly human and truly divine
Utterly mystery doesn’t help, yes there is some mystery but is it coherent.
Deny inspiration of scripture, i.e. Mark 13:32, saying that Jesus was ignorant and say Jesus knew.
Defend that the Bible is basically reliable and propose a model that shows it is coherent, i.e. Jesus was ignorant with respect to his human nature/mind, but omniscient with respect to his divine.
A emptying or giving up or relinquishing to of his divinity, this could be a giving up ontologically of all that makes up divinity, or a giving up of certain aspects, or giving up for the functional independent use of some powers (relinquishing self-exercising of abilities, self-limitation).
Two consciousness model
Pg 45 “1. The divine mind of the Logos encompassing the full scope of omniscience, and which was consciously aware of everything. 2. A Human mind that came into existence and grew and developed as the boy Jesus grew and developed, and which was not consciously aware of everything. (Andrew Ter Ern Loke. A Kryptic Model of the Incarnation. Surrey, England: Ashgate, 2014.)
Pg45 “Morris proposes an asymmetric accessing relation between the two minds: The divine mind contained, but was not contained by, his earthly mind. The divine mind had full and direct access to the human mind, but only such access, on occasion, as the divine mind allowed it to have.”
The divine preconscious/subconscious model
Assumes substance dualism – that the mind is a non-physical entity distinct from the physical body.
Pg 65, “The conscious is that which, when it is active, exhibits a mental condition characterized by the experience of perceptions, thoughts, feelings, awareness of the external world and , often in humans, self-awareness (Colman 2001, 160).”
“The subconscious is defined as mental contents which exist outside of consciousness (714).”
The subconscious can be divided into the preconscious and the unconscious
Pg66 “The preconscious is defined as mental contents that are not currently in consciousness but are accessible to the consciousness by directing attention to them (Colman 2001, 574).”
“The unconscious, which is defined as an aspect of the mind containing repressed instincts and their representative wishes, ideas, and images that are not accessible to direct examination; the operation of repression prevents the contents of the unconscious from entering either the conscious or the preconscious (Colman 2001, 766).
Pg 67 “A person, therefore, is understood as a subject with various traits such as (moral) agency, reason or rationality, language or the cognitive skills language may support (such as intentionality and self-consciousness), and the ability to enter into suitable relationship with other persons.”
Pg 69, “According to this model, the Logos (the Second Person of the Trinity) had a mind without a body prior to the Incarnation. At the incarnation, the mind came to include a consciousness and a preconscious, and certain divine properties such as the knowledge of all truths were possessed by the Logos in the preconscious (this preconscious would become part A of Jesus’ preconscious). This implies that at the Incarnation the Logos no longer had properties such as a conscious awareness of all truths. At the same time, a human preconscious (which would become part B of Jesus’ preconscious and a human body were created.”