Philosophy Fridays: The God-Man?

philosophy

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.

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God With Us

Article 2 of the Constitution of the United States stipulates the rules for the Executive branch. How long the person would serve. How they would be elected. What was the grounds for electing him. What is the process for removing him. What are the qualifications to function in that role.

In that clause, the Constitution states that the President—indeed, also the Vice President—must be thirty five years old but then it has these two other qualifications: they must have been a natural born citizen and have been a resident of the United States for at least 14 years.

The clause is not historically uncommon. Nations throughout history have always wanted a leader who belonged to the country. It’s understandable. When a foreign nation comes in, attacking another country and sits on the throne, the new country is merely real estate with revenue funneling back into the mother country. The ruler doesn’t represent the people of the conquered country at all. Be it Babylon, Persia, Greece, Rome, Mother Russia, England, or the United States the leader represents the needs of his own people.

It was the people’s fear of having a foreign national with us. He’s not really of us—but he’s over us.

So the Constitution drafters insert that clause ensuring that some foreign national doesn’t come along, somehow orchestrate events to become leader of the United States, and then spends the bulk of his time supporting the desires of his real country.

Which brings us to the problem of Hebrews 2.

God Amongst or With Us
The author has established that The Son is the perfect representative of God, acknowledged as such by God, and functions in His Position as God. He does what God does (for example, creating and upholding the world by his word of power) because he has that right, God stands behind Him, and He is, in fact, God. If the Son speaks, God speaks; if the Son works, he completes that work; the very angels of God bow down to him in worship as He sits down at the position of power of the Majesty on High.

This Son is with God, on behalf of God, and Is God.

And yet, that comes with some dire ramifications for us poor humans. Warns the writer “we must pay much closer attention to what we heard, so that we do not drift away from it.” It’s one thing to deny an angel-mediated Law, quite another to deny the very message spoken by the incarnate God, the Lord and subsequently confirmed by those he has placed in power and attested to with miracles and signs by the Holy Spirit.

God is altogether involved in this message and we humans invariably fall short.

But doesn’t this in effect become bad news? This isn’t only some foreign national that’s in control; it’s one with complete power, absolute authority, and the bright white holiness that could incinerate a sinner like paper in a fireplace.

God With Them
Let’s go back to our first parents who found themselves in this sort of relationship of being with God (Gen 1:26-27; (Gen 2: 16-17)

Recently created, blinking in the new light of day, they walked around Dad’s house here on Earth with some familial prerogatives and one dire command: these other things you do, that’s just living—but if you do this one thing, ignore that I have commanded you not to eat of this tree, take it upon yourself to act on your own initiative and your own understanding you will die.

And what does man in this relationship do? He sits on the side, setting aside his authority, watching his wife take the fruit, eat and accepts the thing when offered (as if under her authority) and the immediate response was expulsion and death in later years. Indeed, death in the very home as son rises up against son and proves the catastrophe of man looking no higher for a master than his own wants.

But here, we find that the author to the Hebrews thinking coincides with our own. We’re at the very beginning of creation and seeing the position of man and the position of God. Man is told to reign, to control, to manage, to cultivate but man falls short and God punishes him. As he stands before the Lord, his sin exposed, he hears the mandate that creation will revolt beneath him. He was a cultivator of a garden before, now he’s a tackling thorns and thistles. He was living life to the fullest before now, he’s sweating into the very food he’s taken all this time to make.

David, recalling the wonder of this creation looks back and thinks about the wonder of God’s creation and how he’s established man over this creation, a little lower than God (or the angels as the LXX says), and yet man is crowned with glory and majesty.

Well, not that much glory and majesty because of that Fall. There they fell, deceived by the first murderer, His Satanic Majesty and rendered the world under His power—the prince of power of Darkness. So you arrive at the book of Daniel and hear tell of demonic powers, like the Prince of Persia, holding say over regions (Daniel 9), or you have Paul much later saying that we don’t battle against flesh and blood but against powers, against principalities in heavenly places (Eph 6).

Immanuel
But hear the words of Isaiah as he prophesies of a son being born to a young virgin. This son will show up and his name will be Wonderful, Counselor, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Government shall rest upon his shoulders. What’s his name? Oh, Immanuel: God with us.

God With Us, being born amongst us and receiving titles that belong to God alone.

Time passes and a birth is announced: the child that will be born will be called Immanuel (Matt 1:24).  And as the baby is lain in a manger, shepherds watching their flocks receive news that they will find the Savior, Christ the Lord, wrapped in clothes lying in a manger and the angels can’t help it as they cry out in exultation “Glory to God in the Highest, peace on earth and goodwill towards men!” (Luke 2:7). This one grows up (Luke 2:40) and we see him growing tired (John 4:6) and thirsty (John 4:7) and weeping (Luke 19:41-44) and sweating in Gethsemene (Luke 2:41-46). God With Us, doing all these things, and yet being ministered by angels when hungry (Matt 4:11), providing food for thousands without breaking a sweat (John 6) and demanding that a fig tree withers (Matthew 21:18-22), being asked permission to enter pigs by demons (Matthew 8:30) and telling the very waters and wind “Be quiet—stop throwing a fit!” (Mark 4:39)

This is God, surely, but he’s Man. not merely a foreign national walking in our midst—like Superman, among us but not one of us—he is really a Man and God and he acts with the full prerogatives as an obedient master over creation: just as Adam was supposed to.

So when we read Psalm 8, we find that it not only speaks about the first Adam for those few moments where creation actually listened to him before he fell but it hearkens to the second and greater Adam who stands as master over creation.

But not everything is under Christ’s feet just yet, just as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15. We see Jesus, the man, for a little while made lower than the angels but then we see him crowned with glory and honor but not merely on account of being placed over creation but because he suffered, tasting death for everyone.

Man stands beneath God the Father, and the Son humbled Himself and stands beneath the Father as a real representative for God but an equally real representative for Man. And just as he cried out on the cross “Eloi, Eloi, Lama Sabachtini” from Psalm 22 he stands with Humans before God and says “these are my brethren”. Recall the words of Jesus to Mary “Go to my” not disciples but rather “brothers and say to them: I’m going to My Father and your Father, my God and your God”

Earth-shattering. Ground-swelling. Immanuel. God With Us not merely as God in our Midst but God Stands  With Us As A Man. He trusted God, and he stands with his family showing them to God.

And in so doing he reverses the power grab of the devil and his minions. Man is placed back in charge and the demons are robbed of power since death is robbed of power. And those that are plagued by the power of the devil are able to find real, honest to goodness mercy because he is actually one of us, born of our country, not a foreign national, and has our interests in mind.

Help has never been offered to angels. It has never been theirs to reach. But it was offered to Christ, the seed of Abraham. And Paul, looking at the seed of Abraham of Promise says that we are, on account of Christ, Abraham’s seed.

He’s God’s perfect representative. He speaks, God speaks. He is God with God standing behind him. And yet, he is fully man: one of us crowned with glory because he suffered and died.

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Philosophy Fridays: Did Jesus Fear?

philosophy

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 something I might be reading. 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 is Friday; what better way to have fun than with philosophy. In this post I’ll answer the question “Did Jesus Fear?”  in under 700 words. Heh.

Based on a Biblical text (1 John 4:18) someone might suggest that since perfect love casts out fear then therefore Jesus had no fear.

Technically, this is a philosophical question because the Bible never says if Jesus feared or didn’t fear so making a dogmatic statement either way could be dangerous. So what we have to do is examine the ethics of fear and then examine the possibility of Christ fearing.

Question one: Is there anything wrong with fear?

Well, we need to define our terms. If a car is flying down the street at a toddler running out to get a ball you might rightly feel fear.  Or a child who has previously been burnt rightly feels fear when they see something hot. That being the case, a person might rightly feel fear while thinking about some impending event (fire burning or a car ready to hit a child). It winds up being a mechanism that warns people of harm before the harm actually occurs—it’s actually helpful for self-preservation and survival.

But if that’s built-in, as it were, then we might rightly expand that to include things like fearing the amount of dairy you will be eating tomorrow since you know you are lactose intolerant. Otherwise, humans would just keep doing the same things without any concern for how it affects them.

Now, the Bible also speaks about wisdom beginning with the fear of the Lord (Psalm 111:10, Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33) and that seems to be actual afraid-ness when the Lord shows up. Maybe that’s just a reverential concern when you realize your own finitude before the infinite—but doesn’t that sound like fear in general? Indeed, the Bible also mentions a right fear of the coming judgment (Hebrews 10:27) but it is a fear that is mingled with love, respect and trust (Psalms 130:3-4) so somehow there is an afraid-ful/awed expectation of what’s coming even if you’re confident in the end.

Question two: What is John talking about?

John is no dullard and would know his Bible so whatever he’s talking about stands in direct opposition to perfect love. None of the fears I’ve listed in this post stand apart from love. After all, you might fear for the child because you do love her. And you might fear the fire because you love your hand. But in 1 John 4:16 John makes a statement about knowledge (we have come to know) about trust (and believed the love) on an object (which God has for us) and even the way love is perfected (so that we may have confidence in the Day of Judgment). It’s in this light that he says fear stands in opposition to love.

Did Christ not trust God? Did he deny the future Day of Judgment? Well, in both cases the answer would be no so he didn’t “fear” in that sense but he sure seemed to be a man who was concerned about his impending death (Luke 22:39-46) and I don’t know how to describe that event other than fear even if it was coupled with confidence (Psalm 22).

So did Jesus fear?

Depends on what you mean by fear. Did he have times he was afraid? Sure seems like it. Otherwise he’d be careless. Did he have times where he didn’t trust in God and which is what 1 John might be talking about? Nope.

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