“Many Christians have spoken of Jesus as being ‘aware,’ during his lifetime, of his divinity – aware in a sense that made him instantly, almost casually, the possessor of such knowledge about himself that would have made events like his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane quite inexplicable. What I have argued for elsewhere, not to diminish the full incarnation of Jesus, but to explore its deepest dimension, is that Jesus was aware of a call, a vocation, to do and be what, according to scriptures, only Israel’s God gets to do and be.” – N.T. Wright, Simply Christian, 118.
One of the questions that I ask my students is, “when Jesus became human, was he omnipresent?” This question is the easiest of the three omni’s to answer. The majority of my students immediately answer “no.” Then we move to Jesus’ omnipotence. Most students here say that Jesus was still omnipotent. They cite his miracles as evidence. Fair enough, but what about passages that say he’s tired or hungry? Or what about other prophets that also perform miracles? Are they omnipotent too? This gives them some pause and eventually they concede that Jesus is not fully omnipotent. The last omni is the most difficult to digest. I ask the question, “Was Jesus omniscient during his lifetime on earth?” To drive the point further I ask, “When Jesus was a baby, did he know who he was?” “Was the mind of God trapped in a baby’s body?” I can see that the students are starting to get uncomfortable here, and I myself feel a bit sacrilegious for asking the question. Then I start thinking about Apollinarius.
Apollinarius was also uncomfortable with the idea of a fully human Jesus, and in an attempt to hold onto his full divinity claimed that the mind of Jesus was not human but was the mind of God. See, the early church heresies make sense to me, much more sense than what the church actually comes up with, which takes me back to the classroom.
Just to be clear here, I affirm the early church’s doctrine of the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus. But the early church’s heresies also make more sense to my students. They have no problem understanding that Jesus is fully divine, but the harder concept to understand is his full humanity. Not just that Jesus must be 100% human (including his mind), but why that is so important? This is one of the reasons I introduce them to Wright’s theory in Simply Christian. Regardless of whether they agree with it or not, It forces them to think through how they view Jesus’ humanity and shakes them of their “God-in-a-bod” assumptions.
(I guess I should also add that if our understanding of being fully divine is limited to the omni’s, then we are basing our definition of God more on Greek philosophy than scripture. Being divine goes much deeper than being omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, and immutable.)
So what do you think?
Why is it important that Jesus be fully human?
Do you think Wright’s vocation theory goes too far?
Why do we get more uncomfortable about God limiting his omniscience as opposed to his other characteristics?