So Now I’m a Christian. Now What? Part 5: The Incarnation

“Incarnation? What do flowers have to do with anything?”

Not, carnation, incarnation. It means God took on flesh in Jesus Christ. We read in John 1:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (Verses 1-3, 14)

It is clear from verses 1-3 that “the Word” is God. In verse 14 we are told he became a man. This is not to say that God changed from being God to being a man. Rather, God added to himself a human nature.

You will remember that in part 1 I said God does not change.

“Really? You don’t think “becoming a man” is a change?”

When I explained the difference between “essential” attributes and “accidental” attributes, you will note that “not having a human nature” was not an essential property. God did not have to take on flesh. Moreover, none of his attributes changed. If they did, it would have been called an “intrinsic” change. That means a change in his nature or being. Adding to himself a human nature, or more precisely, the second Person of the Trinity adding to himself a human nature did not change the nature of the second Person. He is still divine, still omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, etc. Adding to himself a human nature is what is called an “extrinsic change.”

In order to make sense of what it means for the divine Person to “add to himself a human nature,” we need to unpack what a human nature is.

A human being is a body/soul unity. This means you are a soul and you have a body. I know some people think we are a body, soul and spirit. For our purposes here, we will leave aside that debate. Suffice it to say we are made of two substances; a material body, and an immaterial soul. (If our spirit is a third part, it is still immaterial, so the debate is not relevant for this point.)

“What do you mean ‘immaterial?’ Like it doesn’t matter?”

No, by immaterial, I mean non-material. In other words, our soul has no weight, mass, and does not extend in space. It cannot be detected with the five senses. It is not made of physical matter or energy. Included in our soul would be things like the mind, the will, emotions, and personality. Our person-ness is in our soul. Moreover, there is good reason to think the soul directs the physical development.

“Isn’t the mind just the brain?”

No. It is beyond the scope of this essay to explain. The brain is part of the body, and is the primary interface between the soul and the body (except for development, and possibly another aspect which will take us too far down a rabbit trail to explain now.)

As human persons, our consciousnesses, our thoughts and feelings, are informed from two sources; our bodies and our souls. For example, when our bodies need energy, our brain tells us we are hungry. If we eat a cheeseburger, our brain then tells us we are not hungry. However, there is another aspect of this process that is not physical. Two people can get hungry and eat a cheeseburger. One really likes cheeseburgers and therefore, enjoys his meal. The other may find he hates cheeseburgers and vows never to eat one again. In both cases, there reaction was emotional. To put it another way, souls cannot chew cheeseburgers and bodies cannot enjoy them.

“What does all this have to do with Jesus?”

Glad you asked. Remember I said that in Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity took on a human nature. That means he added to himself a human body and a human soul. There is one very important difference, however. You will note I said, “Our person-ness is in our soul.” In Jesus, this is not the case. Jesus is just one person, or Person. His human soul had its “person-ness” by being in union with the second Person of the Trinity. Moreover, Jesus’ consciousness has three sources, rather than two. As the second Person of the Trinity, he shares an intellect, will, and emotions with the Father and the Holy Spirit. There is one divine Mind, Will and Emotions. So his consciousness is informed by the divine mind, will, and emotions. Also, it is informed by his human mind, will, and emotions. Finally, his consciousness is informed by his body.

“But when they asked Jesus when he would come back he said, ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’”

As a divine Person, he would choose what to reveal to his human consciousness. The second Person of the Trinity is only referred to as “Son” in and since the incarnation. Understanding this union of God and flesh also makes sense of what Jesus meant when he prayed, “…not my will, but yours be done.” God only has one will. However, Jesus had a human will as well.

I realize this post could get technical. Please feel free to post questions about anything here you don’t understand. In my next post I will explain why all this was necessary.

Part 5: The Incarnation

 

“Incarnation? What do flowers have to do with anything?”

Not, carnation, incarnation. It means God took on flesh in Jesus Christ. We read in John 1:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.  Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (Verses 1-3, 14)

It is clear from verses 1-3 that “the Word” is God. In verse 14 we are told he became a man. This is not to say that God changed from being God to being a man. Rather, God added to himself a human nature.

You will remember that in part 1 I said God does not change.

“Really? You don’t think “becoming a man” is a change?”

When I explained the difference between “essential” attributes and “accidental” attributes, you will note that “not having a human nature” was not an essential property. God did not have to take on flesh. Moreover, none of his attributes changed. If they did, it would have been called an “intrinsic” change. That means a change in his nature or being. Adding to himself a human nature, or more precisely, the second Person of the Trinity adding to himself a human nature did not change the nature of the second Person. He is still divine, still omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent, etc. Adding to himself a human nature is what is called an “extrinsic change.”

In order to make sense of what it means for the divine Person to “add to himself a human nature,” we need to unpack what a human nature is.

A human being is a body/soul unity. This means you are a soul and you have a body. I know some people think we are a body, soul and spirit. For our purposes here, we will leave aside that debate. Suffice it to say we are made of two substances; a material body, and an immaterial soul. (If our spirit is a third part, it is still immaterial, so the debate is not relevant for this point.)

“What do you mean ‘immaterial?’ Like it doesn’t matter?”

No, by immaterial, I mean non-material. In other words, our soul has no weight, mass, and does not extend in space. It cannot be detected with the five senses. It is not made of physical matter or energy. Included in our soul would be things like the mind, the will, emotions, and personality. Our person-ness is in our soul. Moreover, there is good reason to think the soul directs the physical development.

“Isn’t the mind just the brain?”

No. It is beyond the scope of this essay to explain. The brain is part of the body, and is the primary interface between the soul and the body (except for development, and possibly another aspect which will take us too far down a rabbit trail to explain now.)

As human persons, our consciousnesses, our thoughts and feelings, are informed from two sources; our bodies and our souls. For example, when our bodies need energy, our brain tells us we are hungry. If we eat a cheeseburger, our brain then tells us we are not hungry. However, there is another aspect of this process that is not physical. Two people can get hungry and eat a cheeseburger. One really likes cheeseburgers and therefore, enjoys his meal. The other may find he hates cheeseburgers and vows never to eat one again. In both cases, there reaction was emotional. To put it another way, souls cannot chew cheeseburgers and bodies cannot enjoy them.

“What does all this have to do with Jesus?”

Glad you asked. Remember I said that in Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity took on a human nature. That means he added to himself a human body and a human soul. There is one very important difference, however. You will note I said, “Our person-ness is in our soul.” In Jesus, this is not the case. Jesus is just one person, or Person. His human soul had its “person-ness” by being in union with the second Person of the Trinity. Moreover, Jesus’ consciousness has three sources, rather than two. As the second Person of the Trinity, he shares an intellect, will, and emotions with the Father and the Holy Spirit. There is one divine Mind, Will and Emotions. So his consciousness is informed by the divine mind, will, and emotions. Also, it is informed by his human mind, will, and emotions. Finally, his consciousness is informed by his body.

“But when they asked Jesus when he would come back he said, ‘But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.’”

As a divine Person, he would choose what to reveal to his human consciousness. The second Person of the Trinity is only referred to as “Son” in and since the incarnation. Understanding this union of God and flesh also makes sense of what Jesus meant when he prayed, “…not my will, but yours be done.” God only has one will. However, Jesus had a human will as well.

I realize this post could get technical. Please feel free to post questions about anything here you don’t understand. In my next post I will explain why all this was necessary.

Author: apologeticsminion

Daniel has an MA in Christian Apologetics from Biola University. He is married and has four grown children. Professionally, Daniel is a sign language interpreter.

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