100 Answers in 100 Days

More questions answered on this blog:

Sharing answers to the various questions of faith I have faced, and which others have been challenged with also.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

#22: How can Christ be both God and man?

In the gospel of John we read:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14)

The Apostle John says “the Word was God. ... And the Word became flesh...” God became a man. Jesus was both God and a man. Christ has always existed, as God has always existed. But He became a man. As a man He felt hungry, He became tired, He felt physical pain, just as any other man. As being God He was able to forgive sins, heal the sick by a verbal command, and in like manner raise the dead. The Bible says that “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Colossians 2:9). This is explicit... Jesus was “fully God” and “fully man”. But this verse is present tense, after the death and resurrection of Christ. Jesus still is fully God and fully man. The God-man, Jesus Christ, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God, and did not cease to be either God nor man to this present day. The disciples saw Jesus ascend as a man, and they were told that they would see Him return in the same manner as He left (Acts 1:11); that is, a man who is also God will return.

It is difficult to comprehend how a person can be both God and man at the same time. After all, God is everywhere, but a man can only be in one place at a time. So to be both God and man at the same time seems logically impossible. This is something that theologians have struggled with since the beginning of Christianity. It is a supernatural, spiritual reality that is beyond our understanding. The truth is that we simply cannot properly understand it. It is one of the “mysteries” of the Christian faith. Other mysteries are the Trinity – how God can be three persons and yet one God; or how God's sovereignty and human responsibility can both be true. Attempts to explain these things tend always to fall short because they are logically impossible in our world. But we need to remember that there is a higher dimension to our reality; the spiritual dimension. But we, living in the physical world, cannot fully understand these spiritual realities which God has revealed to us.

So regarding the deity and humanity of Christ, we are usually at risk of error when we try to emphasise or defend Christ's deity at the expense of diminishing His humanity; or we try to emphasise His humanity at the expense of diminishing His deity. When we consider the humanity of Christ, we know that He was not omnipresent – He was not in all places at the same time. We also know that He was not omniscient – there were things that He didn't know. For example, He didn't know the time of His own return to the Earth. (Matthew 24:36). However, we cannot say that Christ did not have these attributes. It seems, rather, that Christ had all of His divine attributes, but exercised them only according to the will of God, the Father. There are times, for example, when Jesus did demonstrate knowledge of things beyond the reach of a man's senses. He often knew the thoughts of the people around Him, or the events which would take place shortly, such as His betrayal by Judas. When the Devil tempted Jesus in the wilderness, he told Him to turn the stones into bread to satisfy His hunger, but Jesus refused. We know that Jesus could have done this; Jesus turned water into wine, and on another occasion He turns a few loaves into enough for thousands to eat. But it seems that Jesus was, as I said, only exercising His divine attributes according to the will of God, the Father.

To try to understand how Jesus was both God and man, many ideas have been put forward in the past. One analogy might go something like this: Imagine that an engineer creates a whole bunch of little robots. They are very advanced, intelligent robots; even “self aware”. But even as advanced as they are, they are still only imitations of the engineer. But one day the engineer creates a robot into which he is somehow able to transfer his own mind. We see this idea in science fiction all the time. We could say that this particular robot is the engineer; but it is also a robot. This is an appealing illustration, but we have to be careful. God did not “possess” a human being, somehow remaining a separate kind of puppet master. There is no separation between the humanity of Christ and the deity of Christ. When people spoke to Jesus, they were speaking to God Himself, for He was God. Jesus said to His disciples, “Whoever has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9). His very existence was a “revelation of God” - that is, a revealing of the person and character of God Himself. It is mind boggling to us. Some have denied Christ's humanity, saying that God only appeared to be human; for how could God become a man!? But it is that amazing! And when we consider that He did this for our sake so that we might be saved, it is all the more wonderful!

Tomorrow, we'll consider the Trinity. Until then...
For we do not have a high priest [ie, Jesus Christ] who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

No comments:

Post a Comment