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Monday, October 29, 2018

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Hi Dr. BV, what a timely post. I've just been listening to Dr. William Lane Craig's lecture series on the Trinity and the divinity of Christ. Very interesting and difficult material. I understand why you doubt that such things could be rendered intelligible. If that is the case, what should we Christians do about our beliefs? Are we irrational for holding onto these beliefs?

Hi Tom,

First off, White's book is magisterial and you should read it.

That being said, I don't think his Aristotelian-Thomistic approach is up to the task of rendering the Incarnation intelligible. But there are other approaches out there and they would have to be examined.

Or one might try a mysterian line acc. to which the doctrine makes no logic sense, but is true nonetheless!

Finally, there are Christians like Dale Tuggy who are unitarians and in consequence deny the Chalcedonian definition.

I am way out of practice in all of this, but have fairly recently stumbled on your blog and find it both intriguing and provoking about matters I have not given thought to for many years. Let me try this, and if I am way off the mark, just ignore me and continue on with your excellent work as if I had never said anything. I will not take offense.

But you said, " … there are other ways, and they need to be examined." So I offer this.

It seems to me that the problem is with the definition of person on the one hand and human nature on the other. If the Incarnation must be one Person, the Word, but two natures, divine and human, then the components of the merely human must also be capable of being separated (conceptually) between the human person and human nature. Otherwise, the human person is synonymous with human nature and there would be no logical space to fit a divine Word anywhere in the mix. At this point, I look to a Kierkegaardian scheme as a possible solution.

In The Sickness Unto Death, K posits that the person (he says spirit) is the self, but a self as a positive (read: active) third to the synthesis of the human being as a relation between the finite and the infinite, and etc. If I can substitute your phrase 'body and soul' for K's 'finite and infinite' (quite different pairings, but similar enough for these purposes), then I would say that on this reading of K, body and soul are essential human nature, but they are not the self/person proper. In brief, the self is the self-awareness in the relation between body and soul, but it is more than just a unity that maintains or grounds the relationship between the two (the 'negative third'). It is a 'positive third', that maintains a certain power over the relation. It can reinforce it by living in it, reject it, or find another conceptual synthesis to replace it.

This presents, I think, a space in the human personality for a divine Incarnation.

The Word is Incarnated in the place of the normal human self and becomes the positive third of the synthesis of the human body and soul. Except this Word, this Self, this Will, is divine and without Sin, and unlike us regular creatures, can posit the appropriate synthesis - balance - of body and soul. At the same time, the Word can do that other thing that a Kierkegaardian self must, which is to 'rest transparently in the power that created it' - i.e. God. In this, the divine Word is without Sin again, and is perfectly attuned to the will of God, and therefore perfectly obedient.

Thus, we have one Person, the Word, fully divine and in control of a fully human creature in all its finiteness and infiniteness, temporality and eternity, freedom and necessity. One Person, One Divine Self, Incarnated in a moment in time in a fully rational, hormone driven, DNA determined, culturally embedded human being named Jesus, but with the perfection God always intended for His human beings, to be self-aware of all of it and fully empowered to direct things towards the fulfillment of God's will.

The trick, of course, is to buy into the idea that the will can be plausibly understood as something real and separate in the human psyche - apart from the content the will operates on. We must also be willing to go along with K's idea that rationality is firmly seated in human nature and not in the self/person proper. That is, the rational apprehension of things like the Good and the Beautiful is not a product of our choice or conscious intention, but instead is in some sense spontaneously produced. Then I would argue that a Divine Will can be substituted in without fundamentally changing its divinity, while at the same time preserving and perfecting the human nature it inhabits.

There is a lot more to be said about all of this, not least the notion of 'spontaneously produced' rationality, but I have gone on too long. Assuming you've read this far, I would appreciate any thoughts you care to have.

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