If you hold a materialist view of human nature, can you still hold an orthodox view of Jesus as God incarnate?
The short answer: Yup.
Episode 053: The Mortal God - Materialism and Christology [ 53:51 ] Play Now | Play in Popup | Download
- Brian Leftow on “One Person Christology”
- Divine Timelessness and the Death of Jesus
- What’s really wrong with Apollinarianism?
- God died
- Physicalism and the Incarnation
14 thoughts on “Episode 053: The Mortal God – Materialism and Christology”
I currently lean quite strongly toward the materialist understanding and I agree with a lot of what you’ve argued in this talk, but I do find it difficult to accept the idea that “nothing that happens ‘in time’ can affect any aspect of God’s timeless existence.”
I don’t see how distinguishing between the Son of God’s eternal timeless existence and the Son of God’s temporal existence in time relative to the incarnation can provide a basis for believing that when the Son of God died (in time) he somehow did not die (in timelessness), which is what you seem to be saying. After all, if the Son of God is one person, as you’ve said, then regardless of his relation or non-relation to time: if he dies, he dies. It seems to me that if his time is up, so to speak, so is his timelessness.
This may mean that I am in the camp that doesn’t accept the doctrine divine timelessness. I’m not sure.
Frank, it may be strange, but it seems to me to be beyond challenge that nothing – no event whatsoever – that happens in time, can alter any aspect of the existence of a timeless God. How could it?
I think what you’re battling is an intuition that when you’re dead you’re dead. And of course that’s the case – When Jesus of Nazareth died, he died. His time was up (for three days). But a timeless reality (i.e. one that is literally not spread along the timeline of history as our own existence is) cannot change. Nothing that happens on the timeline of history can change any aspect of something whose existence is independent of time.
It’s a mindbender, but once you get something of a grip on the concept of divine timelessness, then what I’ve said about the relationship of Jesus of Nazareth to the timeless triune God is uncontroversial. I don’t think one should give up on divine timelessness just because its implications are a bit odd to those of us who inhabit history.
I do need to become more familiar with the arguments for divine timelessness, and I’d appreciate it if you’d recommend what you think are the best resources for someone who is relatively unfamiliar—and perhaps something that doesn’t require I do algebraic equations to figure it out, if that exists. 🙂
I have read some of William Craig’s articles on the subject, as well as your “Divine Timelessness and the Death of Jesus” post, but nothing more. Besides that, I recall having a friendly argument many years ago that touched on the subject with a couple of Greg Boyd’s seminary students—a few years before Boyd wrote his book on open theism.
I understand the logic in your statement that nothing that happens in time can alter any aspect of the existence of a timeless God, but here’s where I go cross-eyed: If, as you say, “the logos incarnate in the person of Jesus is the projection of the timeless Son of God in time,” and he (the logos/Jesus) is one indivisible person who died, then when it is claimed that the logos didn’t die when Jesus died aren’t we really saying that the person didn’t die, rather the projection died—or ceased? But in the same way that we say persons die, not natures, shouldn’t we also say that the person of the Logos/Jesus died (because he is one person, not two), and not merely the nature of his personal existence? It seems like we are positing a firewall of sorts between the Logos in timelessness and Jesus in time to maintain the integrity of timelessness or the integrity of the nature of God, but we end up violating the unitary integrity of his person.
Thanks again. It truly is a mindbender. For me it is THE mindbender.
Hello Glenn and Frank. Frank, I would recommend a book called “God With Us’ by K Scott Oliphint. It’s a bit of a tough read, but I think it provides a great understanding of how God both interacts with the world in time, yet remains timeless as I Am. Glenn, how would you understand a passage like Mark 13:32 and how it fits into this topic? Christ, being truly God and never giving up any of His divine attributes even for a moment, must have remained omniscient even though in His humanity was truly ignorant of the hour of His return. In like manner, when God was walking in the cool of the day with Adam or present in the tabernacle with the High Priest, He was still omnipresent and in heaven on His throne. Certainly God can occupy two radically different perspectives at the same time. Is it so hard to believe that Jesus, in His space bound humanity, was in fact dead while in His omnipresent Deity in Heaven with His Father?
Andrew, your assessment works for me when it comes to God the Son having two perspectives – one is the timebound perspective of Jesus of Nazareth, the other the timeless perspective of God.
$2.99 on Kindle – thanks, Andrew. Should be a good read if the Amazon reviews are any indication; a couple of them are almost book-length themselves. 🙂
No problem Frank. That book was an eye opener for me with a lot of theological issues. Hope it helps!
Glenn, I very much enjoyed this podcast. Regarding materialism/physicalism, I had listened to a recent episode of the Unbelievable podcast with Justin Brierley where he and some guests discuss consciousness and ‘out-of-body’ experiences. One of his guests mentions a newer book (that I don’t think is released yet titled, ‘Beyond Physicalism: Toward Reconciliation of Science and Spirituality’. I thought you might be happy to hear that it is or will be available (assuming you had not heard about it yet).
Thanks for that James, and I’m glad you enjoyed this. 🙂
I always feel like I’ve got too many projects running in parallel, but one of the things I plan on doing in the not-too-distant future is a podcast on near death / out of body experiences. I’ve got several books to use as a springboard into it, but that one may come in handy as well.
I enjoyed this podcast as well. I’m not a materialist (at this time), but have no problems with the doctrine. I am curious to know; if Christ has a dual-nature, being both fully man and fully God, why is it so hard to believe that Christ’s flesh fully died while His Deity did not? (God cannot die) No need for the timeless argument unless one does not believe in the Divinity of Christ.
Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it.
I agree that humanity without a body is not human. If we could survive outside our bodies, why is it going to be raised at the Judgment? So I believe that we are not conscious after death until given a new body. But it is clear (to me) that there is a spirit. The spirit is our life force so to say, without which we no longer exist. What are your thoughts?
Chris, “No need for the timeless argument unless one does not believe in the Divinity of Christ.” The timeless argument is used just because Christ is truly God. It’s a way of preserving the biblical truth that this person fully, really, truly died, while keeping the deity of Christ and the Trinity.
Thanks for the quick response. I probably should have better explained my thought. You’re right, God is eternal in nature and not restrained to time, but even if He were in real time it wouldn’t matter. God still cannot die.
I do have a couple of questions: If Christ has a dual nature, is He a dualistic being? How would you explain this from your perspective? Also, when Saul requested to speak with Samuel (I Samuel 28) by the woman with the familiar spirit, was this truly Samuel or just a vision, or is there another explanation for this?
Glenn, I totally enjoyed the discussion. Very enlightening! “I change not”. God does not change. The fact that God does not change in his essential being and yet “the Word was made flesh” seems like a contradiction at first glance. How can the Word become flesh and maintain his integrity as being the unchanging God? Your explanation of timeless existence makes it possible for the Word to be incarnated while maintaining immutability in the Godhead. In God’s essence there was never a change, but in his work to bring many sons to glory there was an economical change; “the Word became flesh”. Jesus said “I and the father are one”; while on earth he was at the same time “in the Father”. So also in his death, as in his incarnation, the essential oneness remained intact not being affected by his death. The death was real and complete; the Son died when the Father made “his soul an offering for sin”. Isaiah 53:10. The soul here indicates Christ as the whole person, not just a part of him. He died a complete death, as a complete soul, and was raised three days later a glorious complete life giving spirit. No need for dualism.
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