Incarnation

According to the doctrine of the incarnation, Jesus of Nazareth is the Second Person of the trinity in human flesh. The idea, however, isn't just that the Son took on a body. Rather, according to the Chalcedonian Definition (451) which lays down what is generally regarded as the 'official' characterization of the doctrine, the Son took on a human nature. Jesus of Nazareth, then, was one person with two natures.16 He was consubstantial with the Father with respect to his divinity, and consubstantial with us with respect to his humanity. But what could possibly lead someone rationally to think that a 30-something-year-old Palestinian man, born to a local carpenter and raised in a town of little import was none other than the Lord of the Cosmos in human flesh? And what could it possibly mean to say that someone is God incarnate, possessed of two natures? These are some of the main questions that philosophers have taken up with respect to the doctrine of the incarnation, and the essays in Part II of this volume touch on both of them.17

One of the main arguments in support of the rationality of belief in the doctrine of the incarnation is the so-called 'Mad, Bad, or God' argument. This argument was first formulated in the seventeenth century by Blaise Pascal as an argument for the conclusion that the testimony of the Evangelists (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) is reliable. It was more recently popularized in the 1950s

15 See my 'The Trinity' for details.

16 Chalcedon wasn't quite the final word, however. Later councils added further clarifications. Most notably, the Third Council of Constantinople (680/1) added that Jesus had two wills—the divine will and a human will.

17 For a start into the literature, see Oliver Crisp, Divinity and Humanity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007); Richard Cross, 'The Incarnation', in Flint and Rea (eds.), Oxford Handbook of Philosophical Theology; S. T. Davis et al., The Incarnation: An Interdisciplinary Symposium on the Incarnation of the Son of God (New York: Oxford University Press, 2002); C. Stephen Evans (ed.), Exploring Kenotic Christology: The Self-Emptying God (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006).

by C. S. Lewis. It is presented and defended here in the essay by Stephen T. Davis.

The argument starts with the premise that Jesus claimed, at least implicitly, to be divine. Virtually none of the sayings of Jesus in the New Testament strike modern readers as perfectly explicit, outright claims to divinity. For example, one never finds Jesus saying to his followers anything so comfortingly clear as this: Listen, Peter, John, and the rest of you: I am God incarnate. I am fully, one hundred percent divine, and so I have all of the attributes of divinity, including aseity, omnipotence, omniscience, and perfect goodness. Like the Father, I am uncreated—saying that I am 'begotten, not made' would be a very good way of expressing it. And I am as much to be worshipped as the other two persons of the trinity, the Father and the Spirit. What we do find is a lot more open to interpretation. In response to the high priest's demand to 'tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God,' Jesus answered, 'You have said so. But I tell you, From now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.'18 But what does Son of Man mean? And must one be divine to be the 'Christ' (literally, the anointed), the 'Son' of God? Likewise, Jesus is reported to have said, 'Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.'19 That looks like a claim to divinity; but, unfortunately, it looks as much like a claim to identity with the Father, which orthodox trinitarianism rejects. And so on. The essay by Craig Evans explores some of the reasons for thinking that Jesus really did claim to be divine.

Suppose we grant that Jesus claimed, at least implicitly, to be divine. The 'Mad, Bad, or God' argument then oflErs a trilemma: The claim to divinity must be either true or false and, if it is false, it must be a claim that Jesus either knew to be false or didn't know to be false. If Jesus knowingly falsely claimed to be divine, then he was (by definition) a liar. On the other hand, if he unwittingly falsely claimed to be divine, then he was crazy. Remarkably few people, however, want to say that Jesus was either a liar or a lunatic—and this not just because doing so would be politically incorrect. The influence of Jesus' teachings on Western intellectual history has been enormous. Hundreds of millions of people have found peace, sanity, and virtue in orienting their lives around his teachings. Even those who do not worship him as God incarnate nevertheless often regard him as a sage or a saint. It is, in short, hard to believe that his teachings were the products of the mind of a man so fundamentally confused and egomaniacal as to think (presumably in the face of constant evidence to the contrary) that he was the all-powerful, omnipresent, eternal, and perfectly good creator of the universe. Likewise, it is hard to believe that they were the teachings of a man wicked

■8 Matthew 26: 63—4, New Revised Standard Version, Copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. (All Bible quotations herein are from this text.)

enough deliberately to deceive others into thinking that he was divine. If Jesus was not a liar or a lunatic, though—so the argument goes—then there is only one alternative left: his claim to divinity was true.

Despite a certain measure of surface plausibility, however, there are various objections one might raise—many of which are raised in the essay by Daniel Howard-Snyder. For Howard-Snyder, the main problem with the argument lies in the supposition that if Jesus unwittingly falsely claimed to be divine, then he was a lunatic. One apparently overlooked possibility, he argues, is that Jesus might have been sincerely mistaken. Much of the essay is taken up with the effort to show that this suggestion is not as implausible as it might initially seem.

The remaining essays in Part II take up questions about the metaphysics of the incarnation. The doctrine maintains that Jesus of Nazareth possessed both a divine nature and a human nature. But we have evidence from scripture that Jesus lacked some of the traditional attributes of divinity, which seems to count against his having a divine nature. For example, the Gospel of Luke (2: 52) reports that Jesus 'grew in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and men'. But nothing can grow in wisdom without at some time lacking complete wisdom. An omniscient being cannot lack complete wisdom, however; for an omniscient being would always know what the wisest course of action would be in any circumstance. (That is, he would know every truth of the form 'The wisest course of action in this circumstance... is to behave as follows...'.) Thus, if Jesus grew in wisdom he was not omniscient. Likewise, the Gospel of Matthew has Jesus reporting lack of knowledge of the day and the hour of his own second coming. You might think that he lacks this knowledge just because the day and the hour are not yet decided—the facts about when Jesus will return are somehow indeterminate. But this response is ruled out by Jesus' claim in the same passage that 'only the Father knows' when the second coming will occur (which, of course, implies that there is a determinate fact of the matter). So again, there is reason to doubt that Jesus is omniscient.

Moreover, the Gospels, as well as the Epistle to the Hebrews, report that Jesus was tempted to sin. But one cannot be tempted to do that which one has no desire to do. Thus, for example, it would be literally impossible (apart from outright deception) to tempt a severely claustrophobic person to allow herself to be buried alive. Whatever cajoling you might do to try to persuade the person to submit to such a thing, it couldn't really be called temptation. And, though it is not sin simply to desire sinful behaviours, it does seem to be a moral defect. A person who desires to torture small children but refrains is surely better than a person who gives in to the desire. But it would be better still not even to have the desire in the first place; and if we found out that one of our friends had such a desire, we would be appalled. Plausibly, then, a morally perfect being cannot desire to sin. But if such a being cannot desire to sin, then such a being cannot be tempted to sin. But Jesus was tempted to sin. Thus, it would appear that he lacked moral perfection.

In light of these considerations, there seems, at least initially, to be good reason for thinking that the Bible says things that imply that Jesus lacked some important divine attributes. But then it is puzzling, to say the least, how he could have been fully divine. There are various strategies for handling this problem. The final three essays in Part II present three of the most important ones.

One strategy—considered and rejected in the essay by Thomas Morris, but defended in the essay by Peter Forrest—involves appeal to the doctrine of kenosis. The term 'kenosis' comes from the Greek verb hekenosen, (eKevooev) which is translated 'emptied' in the following passage from St Paul's epistle to the Philippians:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God as something to be exploited, but emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, being born in human likeness.20

Kenotic theories of the incarnation say that the Word either abandoned some of the traditional attributes of divinity when he became incarnate or at least simulated their abandonment by imposing certain restraints upon himself.

Saying that the Word abandoned some of the traditional attributes of divinity upon becoming incarnate just raises, rather than answers, the question we are trying to answer—namely, the question of how he can be divine if he lacks some of the traditional attributes of divinity. The answer given by kenoticists, though, is simple: Not all of the traditional attributes of divinity are necessary for divinity. This sort of claim is a hard sell to theists (and there are many of them) who accept a perfect-being conception of divinity; for, if being divine is fundamentally a matter of being perfect in every respect, there seems to be no room for the claim that traditional attributes like omnipotence and omniscience are unnecessary for divinity. Various strategies for making sense of the kenoticist's central claim are explored in the essays by Morris and Forrest. In the end, Forrest recommends abandoning the perfect-being conception of divinity in favour of one more thoroughgoingly kenotic.

An alternative route, discussed in the essay by Adams and defended in the essay by Morris is to try to accommodate the problematic passages mentioned above by saying that the Incarnate Christ had a divided mind. On Morris's view, just as Jesus had two natures, so too he had two distinct ranges of consciousness: one human, non-omniscient, susceptible to temptation, and so on; the other divine, omniscient, impervious to temptation, and the like. The human range of consciousness grew in wisdom; the divine didn't. And, according to Morris, the two 'minds' of Christ stood in an 'asymmetric accessing relation': the divine mind had full, unrestricted access to the human mind, but not vice versa. Thus, the incarnation was in part a decision on the part of the Second Person of the trinity to live out his life from the 'perspective' of the human mind rather than the

20 Philippians 2: 5-7.

divine mind; and so in this way, he experienced the limitations that go along with being human, despite (by virtue of having a divine mind as well) being in fact unlimited in those ways.

Adams is content with Morris's view, but she also presents a third way of treating the metaphysics of the incarnation. This third way involves making distinctions among the ways in which the two natures are possessed. Christ's divine nature is possessed essentially. His human nature isn't. As I understand it, the view she presents (and attributes to Ockham and Scotus, among others) is that this difference in modes of possession allows us to say that certain properties Christ has as a result of his human activities aren't exactly the ones that an ordinary human would have as a result of the same sorts of activities. For example, an ordinary human growing in wisdom would have the property growing in wisdom, and having this would entail that she is non-omniscient. When Christ grows in wisdom, however, he has the property growing-in-wisdom-qua-human, which (on the view in question) doesn't entail that Christ is non-omniscient.

There is a real challenge here in understanding why growing-in-wisdom-qua-human shouldn't imply being non-omniscient. After all, we want to say that it is closely and intelligibly related to growing in wisdom simpliciter. But if it is, then one would think it should carry roughly the same entailments. But perhaps we can make some progress by considering a rather different pair of cases. First: Fred loves Wilma. But right now, Fred is sleeping, so he isn't actively or occurently loving anybody. Still, it seems wrong to say, unqualifiedly, that Fred lacks the property loving Wilma. Perhaps, then, we can say that, though Fred really does have the property loving Wilma, he lacks that property qua sleeper. Second: Suppose Fred has temporarily been transformed into a frog and, accordingly, is incapable of any mental state rising to the level of love. If it is wrong to say that sleeping Fred lacks the property loving Wilma, it should likewise be wrong (other things being equal) to say that Fred the frog lacks that property. Perhaps, then, we can say that qua frog, Fred lacks the property, despite the fact that, qua man, he has it. If this is intelligible, then perhaps it sheds some light on what one might mean in saying that Christ himself is omniscient, despite being ignorant of certain things qua human.

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