Fully God, Fully Man
Is this like a square circle?
A skeptic once told me that the concept of “fully God, fully man” is equivalent to a “square circle” in that it is not logically possible for something (or someone) to be “fully God and fully man” at the same time. After thinking about it, I concluded that the comparison to a “square circle” is incorrect.
The “fully God, fully man” concept, as I understand it, is not difficult. It springs from the Christian belief that all men are born with a soul which animates them and makes them more than simply biological machines. When we die, according to Christianity, our souls go to heaven. In Jesus’ case, He was not born with a soul which was created at birth. Rather, the spirit of Jesus became the soul which animated Jesus’ body. Thus, in all respects He was human--he had a human body, he required air, he had a heart, etc. Anything that one can think of that is a "necessary" attribute of humanity, Jesus had. However, the soul which He carried was the spirit of the second person of the triune God. Thus, He carried the full aspects of diety--He was divine, he was eternal, etc. Thus, Jesus was fully man (flesh, blood, etc.) and fully God (spirit).
A "square circle" is irrational because a square and a circle are definitionally different. A square, by definition, has to have four equalatrial sides and four right angles, whereas a circle, by definition, can have no sides or no angles. It is not possible that they something can both have a quality and not have the exact same quality. In other words, a square cannot both have the properties required to be a square and not have those properties at the same time and in the same way because it is those properties which define what it means to be a square.
The comparison to the square circle (which I agree to be a logical impossibility in our euclidean universe) is errant because the word “fully” does not mean exclusively in the Christian teaching. A more accurate analogy would be to say that a person can be fully Asian and fully male at the same time without violating any logical rules. To put it another way, the properties that are definitionally required to be "human" do not exclude the possibility that the human can carry within him the necessary attributes to be defined as "God".
Is there anything inconsistent about being both God and human? Unless a skeptic is able to present a clear statement of what is definitionally required to be God and what is definitionally required to be human, and then show that there is a direct conflict between at least one attribute for each, there is no reason to believe that the definitions contain any terms that are mutually exclusive (such as can be found for a square circle).
One could argue that as a human Jesus certainly did not appear to be omniscient, omnipresent or ominipotent. Two responses can be made to that objection. First, when Jesus became human, the Bible says that he humbled himself and became flesh. He temporarily surrendered certain aspects of being God while he was on earth to do the will of the Father. Thus, for example, He said that some things were not known to Him but only known to the Father. This admission is consistent with the fact that when He became man he surrendered certain aspects of Himself to carry out the plan of the Father.
However, beyond that point, the question becomes exactly where does it say that "omniscience, omnipresence or omnipotence" are necessary attributes required to be God? Certainly, it is our experience that God has these attributes and the Bible teaches that God has these attributes, but are they necessary attributes to claim to be fully God? What is it at the most fundamental lever that makes God God? If God were not omnipotent but just really, really powerful would he no longe qualify to be God? If God were not omniscient but just really, really smart would he no longer qualify to be God? We need to be careful in determining exactly what is definitionally required to make God God.
Second, and equally important, Christianity teaches that God is triune. Jesus is fully God, but he is God with the Father and the Spirit. Even while Jesus lived as a human being on earth, the Father and the Spirit--the other two persons in the eternal Godhead--continued to maintain the full omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence that we expect God to have.
Let me try to give an analogy for this (recognizing that no analogy is perfect or it would be an identity). Consider a person (call her "Lisa") who is a member of a three person partnership with Clair and Fred engaged in business. While Lisa is on the job, she is fully involved in the decision making with Clair and Fred (even though each of them may have a different function within the partnership). Lisa, Clair and Fred are each "fully partners" in the partnership. Now, suppose Lisa gets called in for jury duty for a week. She decides that since she will not be in the office, she will surrender part of her day to day decision making in the partnership to Clair and Fred. Does the fact that she is temporarily out of the office and not participating in the day to day activities of the partnership mean that Lisa is no longer fully a partner in the partnership? Does the fact that Lisa is temporarily not there mean that the Clair and Fred can no longer do the business of the partnership and exercise all of the powers of buying and selling and hiring and firing that it had when Lisa was present? The obvious answer to both of these questions is "no."
Similarly, Jesus was called to duty as a human. In doing so, He knew He would be temporarily out of the same type of communion and interaction He normally enjoyed with the other two persons in the Godhead. Thus, He temporarily surrendered some of the attributes of being part of the Godhead, but the Father and the Spirit still retained all of the authority and powers that the Godhead had always exercised and which people normally attribute to God. Does that mean Jesus is not "fully God" even though he is, in a sense, temporarily out of the office? Isn't His status as a fully member of the Godhood unchanged much like Lisa's status as a full member in the partnership unchanged?
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The Religious a priori is an apologetics website covering philosophy of religion (existence of God) religion and science bogus atheist social science, and issues of Biblical Scholarship.
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Fully God, Fully Man