Wednesday, July 16, 2008

The Logic of the Hypostatic Union

About a year and a half ago, we had discussions at Locusts & Honey about logical consistency in theological formation. One of the principles that I espoused was the Law of Non-Contradiction; that a thing cannot be both what it is and what it is not at the same time.

However, it has occurred to me that the Hypostatic Union of Christ may be a violation of this principle. Although it would not be a violation for an entity to be both human and divine (or any other two natures or components), it would be if the entity would be "fully" both throughout. A cake, for example, is composed of sugar, flour, eggs, and oil, but it is not and could not be fully sugar, fully flour, fully eggs, and fully oil simultaneously.

Which is not to say that I am rejecting the Hypostatic Union -- by no means. But it does appear, at first reading, to be a logical inconsistency.

What do you think?

14 comments:

willdeuel said...

I do question the fundamental presupposition that causes the most controversy in the hypostatic union doctrine - which is that humanity and divinity are mutually exclusive categories.

Oloryn said...

PIck up a copy of G. K. Cheesterton's Orthodoxy, and take a read through chapter 6, "The Paradoxes of Christianity" (read the rest of the book, too). I've at times found Chesterton's concept of balance as 'the collision of two passions apparently opposite' useful, and tend to wonder if it would help here.

Tom Jackson said...

It seems to me that the assertions "God is omnipotent" and "God must obey the Law of Non-Contradiction" are mutually exclusive.

Scotte Hodel said...

Back when I was in college I spoke once to a student who called himself a Taoist, saying that in that religion the highest form of truth is the paradox.

I wish I'd had the presence of mind to say, "Then you should be a Christian: we've got a million of 'em!"

Oloryn said...

That is, of course, Chesterton, not Cheeseterton (why do I get this image of G. K. Cheeseterton as a large, rotund, mouse?).

Allan R. Bevere said...

The hypostatic union is only a contradiction when one has a faulty understanding of humanity as contrasted with divinity.

To say that it is not a contradiction is not to say, however, that it can be explained in fully human terminology.

Dale Tedder said...

Thomas V. Morris wrote an important work on this that you ought to check out.

John B said...

I feel no complusion to try to explain how Jesus can be fully human & fully divine for two reasons. I can't. And when anything can be completely comprehensible to humans it loses its mystery and that strips away the awesomeness of it.

Think how the ancients stood in awe of the universe. Now we know that all those lights in the night sky are nothing more than big balls of burning gases.

I prefer to accept hypostatic union as part of my statement of faith and be inspired by the wondrous good news that God became human.

John said...

Yes, John, but can we believers insist upon logical consistency (e.g. rejecting religious pluralism) while engaging in it ourselves?

Allan R. Bevere said...

John:

Great question!But isn't logical consistency different from religious pluralism?

John said...

Well, I've argued in the past (see the links in this post) that religious pluralism is illogical, but I suppose that one could argue against religious pluralism from Scripture alone.

Allen's Brain said...

It's no more logically inconsistent than the trinity. If we buy that God is 3 yet 1, then Jesus being fully human and fully divine is not that odd.

Tom Jackson said...

But the cake could easily be fully chocolate, fully frosted, and fully fattening, all at once; these qualities are independent, and measured on orthogonal axes.

If you abandon the assumption of mutual exclusion that willdeuel pointed out, the problem goes away.

Justin said...

...No man knows the day or hour, not the son, but the father. Jesus said he did not know and the father did, which means he is not the father. This isn't a problem because the trinity teaches Jesus is God the Son.

(If it is claimed that this is a saying which is true of the human side of Christ but not of the divine, then we reach a contradiction by the law of non-contradiction. That is, we are attempting to claim that Jesus both possesses and lacks possession of this trait of knowing the hour. This shows this saying cannot be true of his human nature and false for his divine nature)

So because we must, lets assume for a moment that Jesus is God the Son. Then using this same passage we see that God the Son does not know everything which God the Father knows. This isn't such a major problem either, because as long as one of them knows the thing, then it can still be said that God knows it right?

(If it couldn't then I have just proven by contradiction that Jesus is not God the Son)

So moving on, aren't God the father and God the son supposed to be equal in every attribute, purpose, and everything. Isn't the trinity about God the Father and God the Son being essentially the same except for personage. So now we have proven that either Jesus is not God the Son or that God the Father and God the Son are distinct in their knowledge as well as their personage.

I don't think I need to go on further... whichever of these you choose to believe (and you must believe one or show my proof false) ... i think you'll be in a large enough dilema.