Sunday, May 19, 2013

Jesus, Simultaneously God and Man: How Is It Possible?

Jesus: God and Man

Christians believe that Jesus was a human. This is because of the records of Jesus life, death, and resurrection, along with theological teachings and Bible verses.

However, because of several reasons, Christians believe Jesus is also somehow, mysteriously, God Himself. This is because of things Jesus has said that state He is God, and also Old Testament prophecies about the Messiah, implying that he would be "the Lord." 

This is why the writings of the New Testament and early Church writings refer to Jesus as being God.

"Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father." - Jesus (John 14:9b)

The Problem

However, it seems we have a problem here. God is omnipresent (everywhere), omniscient (all-knowing), omnibenevolent (all-good), and omnipotent (all powerful.) As we know, no human possesses any of these qualities. Nor is it even possible for a mere human being to have some of these attributes (i.e. your brain cannot hold all knowledge). 

The Historical Solution: One Person, Two Natures

Seems like a tough problem. But Christians have historically addressed it in this way. The eternal God the Son is one Person with two natures. For our purposes a "person" is a center of consciousness with a mind, volition, and emotions. A nature is a "substance" or the set of characteristics that comprise a certain thing

YOU Are A Person with Two Natures

For example, I have both a "male" nature and a "human" nature. Maleness is not limited to humans. Furthermore, humanity is not limited to males. In addition, in order to be a person, I don't need to a male, nor do I need to be a human. Angels and aliens, whether or not one believes in them, are examples of persons which do not have a human nature. Indeed, to properly exist, angels and aliens might not even need a gender. A person (for our purposes) need only have three characteristics: a mind, will, and emotions. They don't even have to be human. They don't even have to have a body.

Which is good, because God had been a non-human Person for a long time. God had only a divine nature. A person with a divine nature has the characteristics of being 1) omnibenevolent, 2) omnipresent, 3) omniscient 4) omnipotent. The eternally existing person of the Logos has always had a divine nature. However, 2000 years ago, this person added a second nature: a human nature. Now, God has two natures, divine and human. 

...Which Brings Clarity To Some Tough Questions

So when Jesus died on the cross....did God die? 

On the cross, God's human nature died. But his divine nature did not "die," because it did not stop existing. Nor did it cease to have the attributes of God. 

Jesus is God. So if someone, (heaven forbid!) cut off Jesus' finger, is that finger a piece of God? 

No. The Person inside the body has a divine nature. The finger is part of the human nature, and is thus not itself divine. 
...But Wait A Second..

Even with this distinction between person and nature, this is still hard to wrap our minds around. We know a divine nature knows all things and has all power. However, a human nature does not have those things. Jesus was on person. How could he simultaneously have two natures that seem to contradict?

An Illustration: Video Game Avatars

Like all analogies, I am sure this one is imperfect. But bear with me. 

Many of you know that there is a popular video game out there called "Halo." It is played using an Xbox.  I do not enjoy this game at all. But I think it might be a good illustration. 

When people play this game, they are often connected to the internet. They speak through headphones to the other players. They then choose an environment in which two or more teams seeks to kill the members of the other team as many times as possible. Your character is basically a very tall sci-fi soldier.

Strangely enough, I believe this gives us a way forward in comprehending how Jesus can be God and man at the same time. 

The "God" (Creator) of the Halo Universe

Now imagine that the inventor and creator of the Halo game wants to play the game he has created. He can easily do this. He gets a copy of the game and begins playing the game as its primary character. Now, as creator of the game, he can reprogram any part of the game he likes. He can make it so that gravity stops working. He can make it so that he has unlimited ammunition. He can make it so that he can always fly. He can make it so that he has an unlimited number of tanks he can drive. He can make it so that he is aware of each and every movement of the computerized opponents. In fact, he could theoretically hack into the game and program it so that he instantaneously kills all his opponents without attacking them. He wouldn't even need to play as a character in the game to accomplish these objectives! In a sense, he is like "God" over the Halo world, because he created it. 

The Creator of the Halo Universe Plays The Game He Created

The creator of the Halo world has unlimited knowledge and power over the environment and game play experience. However, even though he is like the "God" of the Halo world, he can play as one of the characters he created. When he does this, he is very much subject to the same limitations as the other characters. He cannot jump an infinite distance. He runs out of ammunition. He does not know where everything is in the game at every given moment. He does not have an unlimited weapons selection. Indeed, he can be shot and killed within the game. 

Now imagine the creator of the Halo game is having a "LAN party" and is speaking on the headphones to other players over the internet, who are battling each other in teams in a particular environment. The creator of the Halo game does not use his real name. Like all other players, he has a username, say halowarrior164.  If someone shoots him in the game, he can yell into the headphones "who shot me!?"Indeed, his opponent didn't just shoot a character called "halowarrior164." The creator can say "who shot me." 

After he is shot, his video game character dies, falls over, and disappears. He can now truthfully yell into the headphones "I have just died!" But we know that his video game avatar died. The creator of the Halo game did not die. So he simultaneously died and did not die at the same time, in two different senses of the word. 

Also, if he is running by a fortress in the video game , someone might say through the headphones "who is that running by the fortress??" They can say his username, or his real name. In a sense it really IS the creator of the Halo video game that is running by the fortress. But in a sense, it is also just a set of pixels that is moving across the screen by the set of pixels that is the "fortress." 

God Becomes Man: Jesus As God's Video Game Avatar

I think the dual nature of Jesus is very similar to this. In a sense, Jesus is "God's video game character." As creator of the entire universe, God created the "game." He created all the laws of nature and the entire environment, and has perfect knowledge of it all. However, as creator of the game, he can also play the game. However, by playing the game, God subjects himself to all of the limitations of one of the human players.

God's name is "Yahweh." However, when he plays as a human actor, he has a "username," just like in the video game example. His username is Jesus.

 The physical body of Jesus is not "God," in the same way that people who play Halo aren't really just a set of moving pixels on a screen. When you play as a soldier in "Halo," we can say that it is really you that is engaging in battle with the other characters. Indeed, other players recognize this by yelling each others real names into the headphones, when they are killed by each other. However, when people say that Bill is "halowarrior164," they are not at all saying that his nature is confined to the set of pixels on the screen!

Same with God. When we say that "Jesus is God" we are not saying that the totality of God's nature is confined to a human brain and human skin. However, when we say "Jesus is God," it is a perfectly accurate statement, because the Person in the skin and bones and brain is actually God as a human actor with human limitations.

In a way, as a character in the Halo game, the set of pixels on the screen is a perfect unveiling of you in the Halo universe. The character with the username "halowarrior164" is the perfect revelation and unveiling of a human person in the Halo universe. 

Hold On...

I am sure my analogy has some theological imperfections. But hopefully it at least provides an easier way to understand it. 

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