In a recent extended discussion of a Christian apologetic nature, the claim was made that Jesus dual nature of being God and man is logically impossible. I think the argument that this is in fact logically possible is independent of the actual Scriptural/doctrinal basis for the claims that He does in fact posses such dual nature. I suggested at the time that the situation found in nature regarding the dual nature of matter as wave and particle has an incomplete logical resolution but which suggests a similar solution might be found for one person being both God and man.

The essential logical problem is categorical or ontological in nature. A wave is an extended effect, a point-like particle is is not extended. The notion that something can be extensive and localized at the same time is a inconsistent or illogical. It’s akin to suggesting a number can be composite, prime, and/or a unit at the same time. However, the notion that this illogical turns out to be the error, that is to say the error is not that a thing cannot be a extended and point-like at the same time … for the universe is demonstrates that the error is not that this is impossible but that it is observed. Whether it is illogical or not is irrelevant, it is in fact the case that particles are wave-like and point-like at the same time. The error is in the ontological notion of “what is matter”. Matter exists in a different way altogether. Matter is best given a description which actually does posses these qualities simultaneously. The technical details of that particular construction (and its own peculiar limitations are not salient at this point, but for some non-technical descriptions lay-level I’d recommend Gamow’s Mr Tompkins in Paperback or the more recent release of that for an introduction).

My suggestion is that the God/man duality problem is similarly solved. That is the suggestion is that a being cannot be man and God at the same time. The error is perhaps in what you mean by “a being” and not that the notion of having that particular dual nature is impossible. In the matter example it was the notion of what constituted matter that was in error. Perhaps what is in error here the conception of personhood or being, that is what it means to be man or God. Metropolitan John Zizioulas in Being as Communion discusses the development of the idea of person though antiquity into the developments required by theological developments that unfolded in describing precisely the issue of the dual nature of Christ and an understanding of Trinity. In Classical Greece, person was had a dramatic understanding, that is one’s person related to one’s role in family and society. In Rome, a juridical understanding prevailed, that is that a person primarily meant one’s legal standing within society was how personhood was identified. In the fourth century theologians in Alexandria and the Cappodocian Fathers arrived at an idea of hypostasis as person. This notion of hypostasis in fact aligns quite well with some modern notions of personhood, Vladimir Lossky goes so far as to suggest that the modern notion of person derives from the developments by the Cappadocian fathers, but for myself I wonder if that can be established. That is to say, that the notions of person are in fact very similar and from that evidence the hypothesis that they are related is suggestive but the development might be independent but arriving at the same conclusion.

Within the modern notions of person, consider the science fiction/fantasy notions involving transfer of person from one body to another (or to a machine). The hypostasis or person is not directly tied to body. In stories, such as Richard Morgan’s Takeshi Kovacs novels persons can be “uploaded” or transferred from one person to another. This idea makes narrative sense in the context of our modern notion of personhood. A friend or mine (and as well my experience with my children) noted that infants from the very first moment, to his surprise demonstrate and evidence distinct personality. One might suspect that personality develops later in life, but from the first moments an infant expresses a distinct personality.

Hypostasis is separate from memory. If I lose or gain memories, I remain myself. The kernel of what constitutes the unique hypostasis or self may not be identifiably definable in a propositional manner but if one turns that around and defines the unique person as the kernel of person which is distance from particulars of memory, ability, and body. So the, what is occurring in the notion that Christ has dual nature as God and man. Simply that God (or one of the three hypostasis within the triune Christian conception of the Godhead) condescended to allow his hypostasis to be expressed in a particular man, Jesus. That is, Jesus developed into a grown man from infancy whose kernel of self was God translated to a (fully) human person just in the same manner as from a narrative perspective one might find a person “uploaded” to a machine in a sci-fi story.

The point is, while the factual details might be disputed, i.e., non-Christians in particular might dispute that this true and a accurate account of what happened from a logical standpoint what is being claimed makes logical sense. The hypostasis or kernel or personhood from one being was translated from one body to another body. If it makes sense in the context of narrative it makes sense in the context of Christ.

Filed under: ChristianityMark O.ReligionScience

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