Recently I wrote about the Trinity. What about Jesus himself? At first glance divinity and humanity are patently incompatible. Yet Christians affirm that Jesus is both God and human as God incarnate. Indeed, “if anything appears to be a contradiction, surely this is it! How can Jesus be both God and man, infinite and finite, Creator and creature?” Once again, the skeptic may accuse the Christian of irrationality for believing a contradiction.
Rather than appealing to mystery, I’d like to present a possible solution to the problem. What I present below may not represent the way things actually are. Nevertheless, the fact that I can present one possibly true explanation is enough to defeat the charge of irrationality. That’s enough to show that Jesus’ divinity and humanity are logically compatible after all—a Christmas miracle perhaps!
Let’s get started. How did we get here? The early church affirmed that Jesus was truly divine. By divine, I don’t mean possessed divine attributes like omnipresent, omniscient, and omnipotent. According to Richard Bauckham the early Jewish Christians had specific tools to distinguish their God from the rest of reality. In their estimation, God alone is the unique Creator and Ruler of all things; God has revealed himself throughout Israel’s history; God has revealed his divine name—YHWH; God alone is worthy of worship; and God is uniquely eternal. Only this last tool—God is uniquely eternal—resembles a divine attribute. Even so, being eternal is “virtually entailed by the claims that God is the sole Creator and sole Ruler of all things.”
These are the tools the first-generation church used to identify Jesus as God. They didn’t initially attempt to understand how Jesus could be omnipresent yet embodied, omniscient yet mentally limited, omnipotent yet fatigued. If anything it was his humanity that was controversial in the early church. Indeed, we find that 1 John 4:2-3 treats belief in Jesus’ humanity a test for orthodoxy. “It seems that the fact of Jesus’ divinity had been settled … but the Christians to whom John wrote still struggled with Christ’s true humanity and the seeming incompatibility between his divinity and his humanity.”
Skipping ahead to the Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), the church set boundaries on speculation about Jesus. Specifically, Jesus was to be regarded as one person with two natures—divine and human. This is roughly because Jesus must be both fully divine and human to accomplish his task as the saviour of humanity (more on that some other time).
Sound familiar? That’s because it is. “Just as in the Trinity there are multiple persons in one nature, so in Christ there are multiple natures in one person.” Is it coherent? If not then Christians are out to lunch. That’s why I don’t like to appeal to mystery. It’s just too risky. Furthermore, it’s more honest to just say “I don’t know.”
As described above, there’s no real problem with Jesus the man qualifying as divine using Bauckham’s criteria. The problem, rather, appears when we describe God using modern attributes. For example, to be divine Jesus must be aware of and causally active at each point in space (omnipresence), fully aware of all true propositions (omniscience), and capable of doing anything that is logically possible (omnipotence). How could a man satisfy these attributes?
A possible model
Andrew Loke proposes a coherent model as follows. Prior to the physical life of Jesus, God the Son (as the second person of the Trinity) existed as an embodied divine mind. At the Incarnation, God the Son took on a human body to become Jesus. Loke proposes that the divine mind of God the Son was thereby partitioned into conscious and preconscious components. The conscious portion became the human mind of Jesus of Nazareth while the “the divine attributes of His mind ‘submerged’ into the preconscious” portion of his mind. As such, the conscious experience of Jesus was just like yours and mine—he was truly human.
What is the preconscious component? This is that portion of the mind that is not directly present to one’s consciousness but may be accessed if one directs attention to it. Naturally, I am not presently thinking about each thing that I know. Most of my ideas are stored in my preconscious. If I wish to access a preconscious thought, I simply direct my attention towards it and it becomes conscious.
In this way, Jesus continued to exercise omnipresence—his preconscious mind continued to run the universe just as my heart beats without conscious effort on my part. He continued to exercise omniscience—his perfect knowledge simply resided at the preconscious level and was accessed with restraint. Lastly, Jesus remained omnipotent while exercising restraint. It was possible for the omnipotent one to feel fatigue because his “human conscious, which was connected to and inﬂuenced by His physical body, could experience fatigue as humans do.”
In summary, the Incarnation of Jesus is quite coherent after all. There’s no need to appeal to mystery or concede irrationality. Furthermore, this model explains how Jesus could have clairvoyant knowledge (by accessing his preconscious) yet remain ignorant in certain matters. Such a Jesus was truly capable of conscious suffering while exhibiting self-restrained omnipotence. The Christian can therefore rationally affirm that Jesus is truly God and truly human.
 J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2003), 597.
 Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel : God Crucified and Other Studies on the New Testament’s Christology of Divine Identity (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009), 233–234.
 Ibid., 234.
 Veli-Matti Kärkkäinen, Christology: A Global Introduction (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 63.
 Ibid., 78.
 Moreland and Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 601.
 Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 233–234.
 Andrew Loke, “On the Coherence of the Incarnation: The Divine Preconscious Model,” Neue Zeitschrift Für Systematische Theologie Und Religionsphilosophie 51, no. 1 (January 1, 2009): 56.
 Ibid., 53.