Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Is the Incarnation of Christ a paradox unresolvable by human reason?

In the Incarnation, Jesus who is God became Man. Jesus Christ became and is now fully God and fully Man, united in one person forever. Is this an antinomy (a contradiction) or a paradox (a seeming contradiction) unresolvable by human reason?

The reason why the Incarnation seems to be a problem is because we are claiming that Jesus is both fully God and fully Man. Jesus is not 50% God and 50% Man. Jesus' nature is not a combination of divine and human elements. Rather, Jesus has a human nature, and a divine nature, and both are full natures, not partial natures. According to normal reasoning, shouldn't the addition of 1+1 = 2, and therefore 1 over 2 is 0.5 or 50%? But it seems that in the Incarnation, we are saying that 1+1 = 2 but 1 over 2 is still 1!

The problem why this conundrum exists is because we have a faulty view of who God is. If God is truly a se, which is to say He is who He is, totally other from us ontologically, then there is no equation of quality between God and Man. God and Man are not two different types of being, where on a continuum God has the most being, and Man less being. The difference between God and Man is infinitely qualitative, not infinitely quantitative.

If God is other, then there is no comparison with us ontologically. Just as an x axis has nothing to do with the y axis, so likewise the divine nature has nothing to do with the human nature. God and Man (and the Creation) are not opposites in a spectrum, but opposites in kind. So when Christ is fully God and fully Man, it is analogous to saying that x + y = (x + y). (x + y) is fully x and fully y, not half of each.

The Incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ is therefore neither an antinomy nor a paradox unresolvable by human reason. It is only unresolvable when we we continue to think of God along Platonic categories of being, but when we alter our paradigm, the conundrum is easily resolved.


Anonymous said...

Hi Daniel. I think most of the claims that the Incarnation is paradoxical have more to do with trying to harmonize the biblical material with the traditional and historic understanding. Rather than a problem of arithmetic here we have one person who is both ignorant of nothing yet ignorant of somethings (day of his return, grows in wisdom). Also, we have one person who is impassible yet suffers and dies. These things and more certainly seem paradoxical to me.

Daniel C said...


one of them is the fact that Jesus is both fully God and fully Man. Yes, there are other issues, but is also one of them.

Anonymous said...

I wasn't disagreeing, only that saying that God is totally other from us ontologically does not solve the paradoxes that arise in the Incarnation. I also agree that maintaining that Jesus is fully God and fully man is absolutely necessary, and, as a result, kenotic theories must fail.

Joel Tay said...

Well said Sean.