I have been, and will continue, discussing Trinity and Incarnation objectively, that is, in an objectifying manner. Now what do I mean by that? Well, with respect to the Trinity, the central conundrum, to put it in a very crude and quick way is this: How can three things be one thing? With respect to the Incarnation, how can the Second Person of the Trinity, the eternal and impassible Logos, be identical to a particular mortal man? These puzzles get us thinking about identity and difference and set us hunting for analogies and models from the domain of ordinary experience. We seek intelligibility by an objective route. We ought to consider that this objectifying approach might be wrongheaded and that we ought to examine a mystical and subjective approach, a 'Platonic' approach as opposed to an 'Aristotelian' one. See my earlier quotation of Heinrich Heine. A marvellous quotation.
1. The essence of Christianity is contained in the distinct but related doctrines of the Trinity and the Incarnation. Josef Pieper (Belief and Faith, p. 103) cites the following passages from the doctor angelicus: Duo nobis credenda proponuntur: scil. occultum Divinitatis . . . et mysterium humanitatis Christi. II, II, 1, 8. Fides nostra in duobus principaliter consistit: primo quidem in vera Dei cognitione . . . ; secundo in mysterio incarnationis Christi. II, II, 174, 6.
2. The doctrine of the Trinity spelled out in the Athanasian Creed, is that there is one God in three divine Persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. Each person is God, and yet there is exactly one God, despite the fact that the Persons are numerically distinct from one another. According to the doctrine of the Incarnation, the second person of the Trinity, the Son or Logos, became man in Jesus of Nazareth. There is a strong temptation to think of the doctrinal statements as recording (putative) objective facts and then to wonder how they are possible. I have touched upon some of the logical problems the objective approach encounters in previous posts. The logical problems are thorny indeed and seem to require for their solution questionable logical innovations such as the notion (championed by Peter Geach) that identity is sortal-relative, or an equally dubious mysterianism which leaves us incapable of saying just what we would be accepting were we to accept the theological propositions in question. The reader should review those problems in order to understand the motivation of what follows.
3. But it may be that the objective approach is radically mistaken. Is it an objective fact that God (or rather the second person of the Trinity) is identical to a particular man in the way it is an objective fact that the morning star is identical to the planet Venus?
Perhaps we need to explore a subjective approach. One such is the mystical approach illustrated in a surprising and presumably 'heretical' passage from St. John of the Cross' The Ascent of Mount Carmel (Collected Works, p. 149, tr. Kavanaugh and Rodriguez, emphasis added):
. . . when a person has finished purifying and voiding himself of all forms and apprehensible images, he will abide in this pure and simple light, and be perfectly transformed into it. This light is never lacking to the soul, but because of creature forms and veils weighing upon and covering it, the light is never infused. If a person will eliminate these impediments and veils, and live in pure nakedness and poverty of spirit . . . his soul in its simplicity and purity will then be immediately transformed into simple and pure Wisdom, the Son of God.
The Son of God, the Logos, the Second Person of the Trinity, is 'born,' 'enters the world,' is 'incarnated,' in the soul of any man who attains the mystic vision of the divine light. This is the plain meaning of the passage. The problem, of course, is to reconcile this mystical subjectivism with the doctrinal objectivism according to which the Logos literally became man, uniquely, in Jesus of Nazareth when a certain baby was born in a manger in Bethlehem some 2000 years ago.
4. A somewhat less mystical but also subjective approach is suggested by an analogy that Josef Pieper offers in Belief and Faith, p. 89. I will explore his analogy in my own way. Suppose I sincerely and thoughtfully say 'I love you' to a person who is open and responsive to my address. Saying this, I do not report an objective fact which subsists independently of my verbal avowal and the beloved's reception of the avowal. There may be objective facts in the vicinity, but the I-Thou relation is not an objective fact antecedent to the address and the response. It is a personal relation of subjectivity to subjectivity. The reality of the I-Thou relation is brought about by the sincere verbal avowal and its sincere reception. The lover's speaking is a self-witnessing and "the witnessed subject matter is given reality solely by having been spoken in such a manner." (Pieper, p. 89) The speaking is a doing, a performance, a self-revelation that first establishes the love relationship.
5. The Incarnation is the primary instance of God's self-revelation to us. God reveals himself to us in the life and words of Jesus -- but only to those who are open to and accept his words and example. That God reveals himself (whether in Jesus' life and words or in the mystic's consciousness here and now) is not an objective fact independent of a free addressing and a free responding. It depends on a free communicating and a free receiving of a communication just as in the case of the lover avowing his love to the beloved. God speaks to man as lover to beloved. In the case of the Incarnation, God speaks to man though the man Jesus. Jesus is the Word of God spoken to man, which Word subsists only in the free reception of the divine communication. Thus it is not that a flesh and blood man is identical to a fleshless and bloodless person of the Trinity -- a putative identity that is hard to square with the discernibility of the identity relations' relata -- it is that God's Word to us is embodied in the life and teaching of a man when this life and teaching are apprehended and received as a divine communication. The Incarnation, as the prime instance of divine revelation, is doubly subjective in that subject speaks to subject, and that only in this speaking and hearing is the Incarnation realized.
6. Incarnation is not an objective fact or process by which one thing, the eternal Logos, becomes identical to a second thing, a certain man. Looked at in this objectivizing way, the logical difficulties become insuperable. Incarnation is perhaps better thought of as the prime instance of revelation, where revelation is, as Aquinas says at Summa Contra Gentiles, 3, 154, "accomplished by means of a certain interior and intelligible light, elevating the mind to the perception of things that the understanding cannot reach by its natural light." Revelation, so conceived, is not an objective fact. Incarnation is a mode of revelation. Ergo, the Incarnation is not an objective fact.
7. This is admittedly somewhat murky. More needs to be said about the exact sense of 'subjective' and 'objective.'