The implications of objective idealism for Christian theism are numerous, but I will limit myself to engaging the issue of Christology. This proposal adopts four main guiding principles. First, following the Council of Chalcedon, Christ possessed two natures yet was one person (hypostasis). This conviction is crucial in order to affirm that Christ lived a genuine human experience and yet was the God of Israel, YHWH. Without the two distinct natures, the humanity and divinity of Christ are conflated and (similar to substance dualism examined above) falls prey to the interaction problem where either one of the two natures must be reduced to the other. Either Christ’s humanity will be reduced to His divinity (leading to Docetism) or His divinity will be reduced to His humanity (leading to Arianism), and so there must be a reasonable distinction between the two while providing a way for them to be united into one person. As Cyril of Alexandria argued, “How could one posit an identity of essence in things which are so disparate in the rationale of their respective natures? Godhead is one thing, manhood quite another. So, what are these things which we say have come into unification? One cannot speak of things ‘united’ when there is only one thing to start with; there must be two or more.” (1)
Second, following Apollinarius as well as J.P. Moreland and William Lane Craig (MC), the Logos was the rational mind of Jesus of Nazareth. (2) I agree with MC that if one affirms that Christ possessed both a human soul in addition to His divine soul, then the resulting union would resemble an indwelling reminiscent of Theodore of Mopsuestia’s belief that the Logos came to indwell the man Jesus of Nazareth (thereby implying that Jesus and the Logos are distinct persons). The individual human nature and the individual divine nature within Christ seems to produce these two persons especially if one maintains that a necessary part of a complete nature is the presence of a rational soul. The implication for Christ is that He would possess two souls, or minds. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that this results in two persons. However, I admit that given the model of emergence expounded upon earlier, one could perhaps avoid this problem by saying that the human rational soul of Christ was emergent from His divine soul/mind similar to how a human body is emergent from the immaterial mind. The only problem would be elaborating on how an immaterial substance could emerge from another immaterial substance, but, again, one could perhaps relate this to our finite, immaterial minds being dependent upon God ontologically (who is immaterial Himself).
In contending for the Logos being the rational soul of Jesus, MC recognize that Apollinarius’s Christology is insufficient as it does not lead to Christ accepting humanity but merely animality. (3) However, Apollinarius’s view is not totally irredeemable. MC submit that in assuming a hominid body, the Logos brought to Christ’s animal nature (i.e. the human body alone) the properties needed to constitute a complete human nature thereby making the human nature of Christ complete precisely by virtue of the union of His flesh with the Logos. (4) They justify this move by appealing to the imago Dei. According to MC:
Human beings do not bear God’s image in virtue of their animal bodies, which they have in common with other members of the biosphere. Rather, in being persons they uniquely reflect God’s nature. God himself is personal, and inasmuch as we are persons we resemble him. Thus God already possesses the properties sufficient for human personhood even prior to the Incarnation, lacking only corporeality. The Logos already possessed in his preincarnate state all the properties necessary for being a human self. In assuming a hominid body, he brought to it all that was necessary for a complete human nature. (5)
For MC, it is mistaken to throw out all of Apollinarius’s concepts for understanding the person of Christ even though his final result is unsatisfactory. Their view adopts a later doctrine known as enhypostasia developed by Leontius of Byzantium according to which the man Jesus of Nazareth did not subsist on His own but rather became hypostatic only in union with the Logos. (6) Christ’s union of His human and divine natures is complementary in that the former is dependent upon the latter for true unity between the two.
Third, following the implications of idealism in light of QM, the human nature of Jesus of Nazareth was emergent from the Logos. This view is able to explain cogently why the particular human Jesus is uniquely connected to the divine Logos. An emergent account in conjunction with the second point coherently rebuffs the idea that the Logos could have assumed any human nature. As MC argue, “The individual human nature that is the man Jesus of Nazareth could not have existed apart from its union with the Logos, and were the Logos to be united with the body of, say, J. P. Moreland, the resultant person would not have been J. P. Moreland but someone else who merely looked like him.” (7) However, MC do not clarify how the Logos is united to the man Jesus of Nazareth. An emergent model answers this question by postulating that the body is emergent from the Logos similar to how a tree on a computer monitor emerges from the underlying code. This view also illuminates pre-incarnate appearances of YHWH as a man in the Old Testament like in Genesis 18:1-33, Joshua 5:13-15, and Daniel 7:13-14. Here God appears as a man at will on multiple occasions, and as such it appears He is able to enter and exit the physical world on a whim, something mere humans are unable to do.
Fourth, following the implications of the second and third points and MC, the divine aspects of Jesus were subliminal during His state of humiliation. (8) Jesus possessed a normal human conscious experience by way of His becoming incarnate, but His human consciousness was underlain by His divine subconsciousness. This avoids the objection that Jesus possessed no human mind and therefore had no genuine struggle with suffering and temptation because Jesus’s waking consciousness was akin to that of the normal human experience. As MC contend, “[T]he Logos allowed only those facets of his person to be part of Christ’s waking consciousness which were compatible with typical human experience, while the bulk of his knowledge and other cognitive perfections, like an iceberg beneath the water’s surface, lay submerged in his subconscious.” (9) This view again avoids a two-person Christology by unifying the person of Christ in a solitary mind and does not divide His person into two distinct minds in order to maintain both the divine and human elements. It is possible to bring these two conceptions together in a plausible, yet admittedly not unassailable model without postulating two minds. Together, these four points examined constitute in sum a workable Christology which respects scientific data, philosophical speculation, church tradition, and, above all, Scripture.
While discoveries in science and new modes of thinking in philosophy provide insight into the nature of reality, these methods of acquiring knowledge do not dominate how theology is conducted. Instead, all attempts to ascertain the truth about theological doctrines must come before the bar of Scripture. Christian tradition (i.e. the ecumenical councils, Christian theologians, etc.) from antiquity to today must also be considered, yet this too must yield to the Bible as it is Scripture which sets forward the tradition in which Christianity must follow suit. At the same time, recent discoveries in science about reality’s nature must be soberly examined critically and reflectively. This does not mean the Christian must tune the wind in her sails at the whim of scientific progress (such an approach is premature and ultimately unhelpful), but this does mean Christians have a duty to properly engage in these new discoveries.
As such, I have argued here that a person can postulate a plausible theory of human ontology and the Incarnation which coheres with the Bible, respects church tradition, and adopts the philosophical and scientific insights offered by scholarship in the modern era. Objective idealism based upon a model of emergence is a plausible way of conceptualizing both the mind-body problem and the Incarnation.
(1): Cyril of Alexandria, On the Unity of Christ, trans. John Anthony McGuckin (Crestwood, NY: St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1995), 77.
(2): J. P. Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 608.
(5): Ibid., 609.
(7): Ibid., 610.
(9): Ibid., 611.