Over the last several articles, I have been defending the historical reliability of Sacred Scripture. As noted before, this is no small task given that there are many attacks against the veracity of the Bible. We just don’t have the space to cover all the objections, so I have been focusing on some major objections with which I am familiar.
One claim against Scripture (and Christianity as a whole—for an attack on Christianity is an attack against Scripture, and vice versa) that I have heard quite a bit is: ”Scripture is clearly false (or fictitious) since it claims that God became a man. And if God is truly God, He cannot become a man.” This is an objection I’ve seen on social media and is sometimes presented by Muslims attempting to discredit the Christian claim that Jesus is God.
Let’s explore this claim. First, let’s rightly articulate the doctrine of the Incarnation. It is an essential Christian belief (a major doctrine of the Christian faith) that Jesus of Nazareth was fully man and fully God. Jesus—according to Christians—did not come into existence when He was conceived in the womb of a virgin. He has always been; He has always existed. Better stated: There was never a point in which Jesus was not. Paul even tells us in Colossians that Jesus is “the image of the invisible God…all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.” Therefore, when Jesus took on human flesh, He did not then come into being, but He did then take on a human nature.
In AD 451, at the Council of Chalcedon, the early church taught that Jesus has both a human nature and a divine nature. This, however, doesn’t mean He has two different personalities: both of these natures are in complete union even though there is a distinction between the two. Jesus is no mere human. He is the God-Man. In fact, it is essential to the salvation of our souls that Jesus be truly God and truly man. If either one of these natures should be taken away, His redemptive plan loses its thrust to save true humans that can only be redeemed by a human representative that is a perfect, sinless sacrifice.
This union of two natures is a mysterious thing. We don’t fully understand how it works, but it is the clear testimony of Scripture and it is the historical stance of all orthodox Christians.
Now, is there anything about such a position that is logically contradictory to God taking on human flesh. Again, God didn’t abandon His divinity to become a man. He still remained divine and is still divine and will forever be divine.
Perhaps we can look at it this way. All Christians claim God is omnipotent. That is, God is all-powerful, so He can do whatever He wants to do. Now, notice the way omnipotence is defined. What Christians do not claim is that God can do that which is against His nature or that which is logically impossible. For example, God cannot commit any evil action. By definition, God is good, and can only do that which is good. Furthermore, God cannot do that which is logically impossible. He cannot make a square circle or a rock so heavy that He cannot lift it. These are silly absurdities that ultimately make no sense. Everything God does is good, reasonable (even if we don’t understand it), and right.
Applying this understanding of omnipotence, is it against God’s nature to take on human flesh? Or is it logically impossible for God to become human? It doesn’t seem contradictory to the common understanding of omnipotence. In fact, it seems in complete harmony with God’s loving and compassionate nature to take on a human nature so He may save all humans that repent and believe. And it in no way is logically impossible for God to do this.
So, it seems completely reasonable to me in claiming that God can become incarnate, as long as the belief is understood in a way that doesn’t diminish His divinity.