A-1 - Encouraged by What You Read?

I’m not sure if the internet and social media as a whole are either an intrinsic good or an intrinsic bad, but as technologies they do afford opportunities to discuss Christian apologetics issues. In part one of this series I responded to an objection by a skeptic who raised questions about what I wrote in “The Historic Alliance of Christianity and Science.” Here in part two I’ll address his other major objection (summarized below).

Skeptical Objection

The incarnation is a central Christian belief, but it contains an inherent contradiction. If Jesus is God and man, then his unlimited divine nature clashes with his limited human nature. The two natures are incompatible. This seems both illogical and false—thus, Christianity is based on nonsense.

My Response

The skeptic argues that the Christian doctrine of the incarnation (Jesus being both God and man) violates the law of noncontradiction (A cannot equal A and non-A). Before I answer that criticism on the coherency of the incarnation, I would ask the skeptic a question: In a world without God in which only matter exists, how does a naturalist account for abstract, nonempirical entities such as the law of noncontradiction?

The formal laws of logic (law of noncontradiction, the law of excluded middle, and the law of identity) are the foundation that makes substantive thought, speech, and action possible. Since these laws are cognitively necessary (no meaningful thought is possible without them), ontologically real (they define the very nature of reality itself), and irrefutable (any attempted refutation of the laws must first assume them), where did they come from? Humans could not have invented them (mere conventions) because man would have had to know them to learn anything at all. How is it possible to have immaterial, invariant, abstract entities in an atheistic world? Can the worldview of naturalism explain and account for logic? From a Christian theistic point of view, the laws of logic flow from the rational mind of God.

Concerning the alleged incoherence of the Christian doctrine of the incarnation (Jesus as a single person with both a divine and human nature1), the doctrine can be formulated in a way that is not logically contradictory. One could argue that the way in which Jesus was limited (human nature) is in a different respect from the way in which he was unlimited (divine nature). The law of noncontradiction asserts that two contradictory propositions cannot both be true at the same time and in the same respect. Formulated as I have stated it, the incarnation does not formally violate the law of noncontradiction.

Also, the union of the two natures in the person of Christ need not imply contradiction for another reason. The orthodox definition says that the two natures in Christ (divine and human) are in union with one another but remain distinct. In other words, the natures do not mix or intermingle and thus do not conflict.

Summary

Finite creatures cannot comprehend exactly how a single person can have two distinct natures (one divine and one human). But as defined by Christian orthodoxy, the incarnation is not a formal contradiction because the two natures do not negate or limit one another (the two natures neither clash nor mingle).

So historic Christian theology insists that the incarnation is not a logical contradiction, but instead a divine mystery.2 This doctrine defies full human comprehension but it does no damage to reason. I hope this brief thought piece helps you to reason respectfully with nonbelievers on social media, in person, or in any context.

Reflections: Your Turn

How does Jesus’s having a human nature impact his serving as our high priest? Visit Reflections on WordPress to comment with your response.

Endnotes
  1. For a discussion of how Jesus Christ can have both a divine nature and a human nature, see Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions, chapter 9.
  2. To appreciate how logical contradiction differs from mystery, see my article, “The Difference between Mystery and Contradiction,” Reflections (blog), Reasons to Believe (December 18, 2018), https://reflectionsbyken.wordpress.com/2018/12/18/the-difference-between-mystery-and-contradiction-in-theology/.
 
Check out more from Dr. Kenneth Samples @Reasons.org

About The Author

Kenneth R. Samples

I believe deeply that "all truth is God’s truth." That historic affirmation means that when we discover and grasp truth in the world and in life we move closer to its divine Author. This approach relies on the Christian idea of God’s two revelatory books - the metaphorical book of nature and the literal book of Scripture. As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. My writings and lectures at RTB focus on showing how the great doctrinal truths of the faith (the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Atonement, creation ex nihilo, salvation by grace, etc.) are uniquely compatible with reason. This approach reflects the historic Christian apologetics statement - "faith seeking understanding." I work to help myself and others fulfill Peter's words in 2 Peter 3:18: "But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen." As an RTB scholar I have a great passion to help people understand and see the truth and relevance of Christianity's truth-claims. • Biography • Resources • Upcoming Events • Promotional Items Kenneth Richard Samples began voraciously studying Christian philosophy and theology when his thirst for purpose found relief in the Bible. He earned his undergraduate degree in philosophy and social science from Concordia University and his MA in theological studies from Talbot School of Theology. For seven years, Kenneth worked as Senior Research Consultant and Correspondence Editor at the Christian Research Institute (CRI) and regularly cohosted the popular call-in radio program, The Bible Answer Man, with Dr. Walter Martin. As a youth, Kenneth wrestled with "unsettling feelings of meaninglessness and boredom," driving him to seek answers to life's big questions. An encounter with Christian philosophy in Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis led Kenneth to examine the New Testament and "finally believe that Jesus Christ is the divine Son of God, the Lord and Savior of the world." From then on, he pursued an intellectually satisfying faith. Today, as senior research scholar at Reasons to Believe (RTB), Kenneth uses what he's learned to help others find the answers to life's questions. He encourages believers to develop a logically defensible faith and challenges skeptics to engage Christianity at a philosophical level. He is the author of Without a Doubt and A World of Difference, and has contributed to numerous other books, including: Lights in the Sky and Little Green Men, The Cult of the Virgin, and Prophets of the Apocalypse. He has written articles for Christianity Today and The Christian Research Journal, and regularly participates in RTB's podcasts, including Straight Thinking, a podcast dedicated to encouraging Christians to utilize sound reasoning in their apologetics. He also writes for the ministry's daily blog, Today’s New Reason to Believe. An avid speaker and debater, Kenneth has appeared on numerous radio programs such as Voice America Radio, Newsmakers, The Frank Pastore Show, Stand to Reason, White Horse Inn, Talk New York, and Issues Etc., as well as participated in debates and dialogues on topics relating to Christian doctrine and apologetics. He currently lectures for the Master of Arts program in Christian Apologetics at Biola University. Kenneth also teaches adult classes at Christ Reformed Church in Southern California. Over the years Kenneth has held memberships in the American Philosophical Association, the Evangelical Philosophical Society, the Evangelical Theological Society, and the Evangelical Press Association. The son of a decorated World War II veteran, Kenneth is an enthusiastic student of American history, particularly the Civil War and WWII. His favorite Christian thinkers include Athanasius, Augustine, Pascal, and C. S. Lewis. He greatly enjoys the music of the Beatles and is a die-hard Los Angeles Lakers fan. Kenneth lives in Southern California with his wife, Joan, and their three children.

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