In this section, I will present as test cases some of the Biblical passages that are sometimes seen as being problematic for the coherence of the Incarnation. With illustrations and brief commentary, I will show how my model would handle these test cases. I will also add a few additional test cases that are not directly connected to particular Biblical passages.
“Meanwhile, the child continued to grow and to become strong. He was filled with wisdom, and God’s favor was with him.”
The smaller circles represent previous stages during which the child was younger, and thus had less knowledge, strength, etc.
“Going on a little farther, he fell on his face and prayed, “O my Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me. Yet not what I want but what you want.”
The will of the Son was in perfect harmony with the will of the Father, but given the epistemic limitations of the human mind of Christ, this agreement took on its surface an appearance of a disagreement.
“Then Jesus, filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan. He was led by the Spirit into the wilderness, where he was being tempted by the devil for forty days. During those days he ate nothing at all, and when they were over he was hungry.”
The issues related to Jesus’ temptation are a bit more complex than some of the other examples that I have given in this essay. Therefore, I will offer a brief commentary in addition to the caption. While I believe that the solution to the basic problem of how Jesus could be tempted is rather simple within the broad outlines of my model, I do recognize that it may initially appear to conflict with one tenet that I have affirmed, namely, the kind of asymmetric independence relation that I have postulated. However, it seems clear that this perceived conflict is based on a misunderstanding. For it should be kept in mind that here we are dealing with something that is not strictly identical to the aspects of mind that are part of the model. The moral perfection of one’s character is probably not exhaustively analyzable in the four categories of cognition, volition, causation and affection. And neither is there any need to suppose that Jesus could not have been morally perfect in his humanity in becoming Incarnate – indeed, his moral perfection is something that I want to firmly affirm.
But in light of this, what happens to the idea that Jesus was tempted? How can the perfect God be tempted? The answer seems to be that while Christ’s morally perfect nature guaranteed that he could not fall into sin, his limitations with regard to the basic four mental aspects resulted in a situation where it was not immediately obvious to him in his human consciousness that he could not fall, and thus he had to go through a mental process of deliberation (and perhaps even some kind of a struggle) in order to realize it and act on this realization, even though the result of that process was guaranteed on the basis of his perfect goodness.
While this case is a bit more difficult to illustrate than the others, the basic idea should be relatively clear. Due to the incarnational limitations of the human consciousness of Christ, he needs to go through a process of deliberation in order to come to know and decide that he can and will resist the temptation.
NOTES TO PART 4
17. Despite the attempts of Richard Swinburne to derive God’s moral goodness from omniscience and perfect freedom.