Orthodox Christian view of the nature of Jesus Christ: Fully man, fully God.
Difficulties: Don’t the characteristics of man negate the characteristics of God?
Omnipotence: How could it be said that Jesus could not perform a miracle? How could he feel weak?
Omniscience: How could it be said that Jesus does not know certain things?
Eternality: If one of God’s necessary characteristics is that He is eternal, then how can Jesus, as human, possibly take on this essential characteristic?
Spaciality: If God, by his very nature, is spaceless and omni-present, then how can a human Jesus have any similarities with this essential characteristic of God?
The Bible says that God is not a man. Jews and Muslims can both get offended at the idea that God can be divided into separate persons. They are monotheists, holding tightly to the idea that God is one indivisible being. Christians must also accept this, since it is plainly biblical. Jesus makes a distinction between himself and God his Father. How can he make this distinction and yet claim that he and his Father are God?
One theory (addressed in the earlier related blog) is known as Nestorianism. This theory says that Jesus continually shifts back and forth between is fully human state and his fully God state. On this theory, the two states don’t have any overlap.
The two-minds theory says that Jesus has an immaterial fully human mind – along with a fully human physical brain. It also says that he has a separate immaterial mind which is fully deity in nature.
Kenotic (emptying) theory: This theory comes from the Greek word kenosis, which is found in Philippians 2:6-8:
“Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”
This emptying was not just exhibited at the cross, but during the entire experience of his earthly life. The self-emptying explains why he couldn’t do certain things and didn’t know certain things. Removing those privileges were part of the emptying that was required for him to endure in order to fulfill his purposes.
Krypsis (veiling) theory: In a similar theory, the veiling theory says that every attribute of God was present in Jesus, but that each one was made dim for a time. Why was he not able to do certain things? Because the full measure of God’s power was being restricted, or held back. Perhaps Jesus only let as much light out as was necessary to demonstrate his fulfillment of all the various requirements for the Messiah. Maybe he needed to do no more than that which fulfilled all old covenant foreshadowings. Jesus could have exhibited many more elaborate signs; but he kept the veil over the light in order that he would only accomplish what was necessary – in all humility.
My current theory:
I would land closest to the kenonic model of the incarnation. Though I think what I present is more of a composite model. I do generally believe everything contained with in the kenonic model. As I was pondering it, though, I had a little bit of a different emphasis.
Jesus is fully human and fully God. This means that neither his deity nor his humanity were compromised at any point in time. As we know, human appetite can violate a sinless nature. For reasons like this, it seems that the two natures ought to be explainable in terms of being non-overlapping. The two minds model overlaps the natures too much for my taste. The divine mind within the human mind (or the human mind within the divine mind) still has too much overlap in my estimation. Thus, I have now adapted an idea that views Jesus’s humanity as the vessel, while his divinity is the substance filling the vessel. It was useful to think about Jesus as a cup filled with water, varying in size according to the stage of his life. But it may be more helpful to think about Jesus as a hose through which water flows.
Possibly the most challenging verse to my Christology has been where Luke records that Jesus grew in wisdom and stature and in favor with God (2:52). Many of my previous thoughts about the nature of Christ would not allow for the truth of such a verse. But I think this image of a widening hose, or enlarging cup, allows for this verse to carry its meaning. As Jesus grew, he did not become more deity, he only became more capable of expressing that aspect of his nature. Whereas everything in him was deity in infancy, the ability to express that nature was limited to the capabilities of his mind and body. If you think of it in terms of the hose, the substance flowing through the hose was always pure water; but the hose went from allowing a small trickle through to allowing large blasts of pure water.
So, Jesus’s nature as God and man is non-overlapping, yet fully interacting. The interaction allowed for both deity and humanity to be expressed continuously and perfectly. The Son stripped down his rights to express the deity of God without hindrance in order that he would take on limited humanity on our behalf. The spotless, perfect son of God, being made human like us, is the only way to have paid the sin debt to God on our behalf.
Now we may be able to think of Jesus more as a soaker hose, nourishing with life everything that is near it!