In the Incarnation Did God Become a Man,
or Indwell a Man?
I am writing you in regards to your statement, "To deny that God can become a man is to deny that Jesus is of the essence of the Father, or that Jesus is divine, and even the idea of an incarnation at all. If Jesus is not the essence of the Father, then we are left with the doctrine of Arianism which sees Jesus as a lesser deity than the Father, or Ditheism (belief in two Gods), both of which are heresy and do not affirm the monotheism of the Scripture. According to YHWH, there is no other God besides Him (Deuteronomy 4:35; Isaiah 45:5, 21). He did not mean that there is no other God equal to Him, but that no other divine being exists! With this teaching we are forced to conclude that either Jesus is either YHWH incarnated in the flesh, or Jesus is a mere man. Such a position is biblically untenable, and such an exegesis of Numbers 23:19 leads to a logically absurd position for one who still wishes to hold a theistic view of Jesus Christ, no matter how minimal it may be. If a divine being cannot become a man, then the idea of an incarnation is impossible."
Please accept this question with all due respect. I am not writing to debate, I am asking for your response in respect and deference of your knowledge and experience. This position has me confused. Maybe I just misinterpreted it. I have always considered my Godhead doctrine to line up exactly with that of the UPC in general, but not with what you have stated here. It seems that you are denying the dual nature of Christ when you say that God became a man. How could God become a man and still remain a Spirit? Why did God need Mary at all if He was just going to make Himself into flesh?
When it says in 2:9 that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus this cannot mean that all of God dwelt in Jesus. If all the fullness of God became man, and therefore all the fullness must have ceased to be God during the days of his flesh as Jesus, especially when he died, how can God said to be eternal? According to I Kings 8:26-27 the heavens cannot contain God. If this is true, how can the human body of Jesus contain all of God?
When I claim that Jesus is God made flesh, this is not a denial of the dual nature of Christ. In fact, I am becoming known for my absolute insistence on a Chalcedonian Christology that maintains that Jesus has two natures, both fully God and fully man, and that these natures are indivisibly joined in Christ via the incarnation. Read my paper titled "The Dual Nature of Christ" for more details.
When I said that either "YHWH was made flesh, or else Jesus is just a mere man," what I meant is that there was a true incarnation of the Word (John 1:1, 14). Jesus was not a man whom the Father jumped inside of and walked around in. Jesus' human existence was fathered by God. God actually became flesh (John 1:1, 14). My statement is derived directly from the Bible. The KJV reads "the word was made flesh." The Greek word translated as "made" is ginomai which means "to become." The Logos did not merely assume a human body, but became a human being. The union is metaphysical, not moral. In such a union, whatever can be said of Christ's divine nature, or of His human nature, can be attributed to Christ's whole person. This is known as the communicatio idiomatum. Christ's person is one unified whole, not two fragmented parts.
Part of the problem lies in the fact that you understand the phrase "God became a man" to mean that I believed God ceased being Spirit after the incarnation. This is not what is being implied. God continues to exist as the transcendent, unlimited Spirit while also existing as a man. God did not become confined to a human existence. It was not as though the omnipresent Spirit of God transformed Himself into a man to the exclusion of His existence as Spirit. God became incarnated, He did not transform Himself into something new.
Your idea that God did not become a man in the incarnation is not affirmed by Oneness theology. The idea that God did not become a man necessarily implies that Jesus was a man in whom God only indwelt. This is essentially the teaching of Adoptionistic Monarchianism. This view claims that Jesus was a mere man, but became endowed with the Holy Spirit in a special way at some point in His life. He was not God in the strict sense however, for the same Spirit is present in all believers to some degree. The man Jesus merely experienced the operation of this power to such an extent that the Spirit of God penetrated the humanity of Christ progressively, resulting in eventual deification. You may not agree completely with this entire description, but it seems that your position is similar in that you believe Jesus' humanity could have existed apart from the incarnation.
When God was manifest in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16), He did not infuse His Spirit into a human person, otherwise Jesus would have been two persons in one body (Nestorianism). Jesus never says "we" when referring to Himself, but rather "I" or "me." In the incarnation, God took into union with Himself the human nature. This could not be accomplished by indwelling a particular human, even if that human was conceived miraculously.
If God only indwelt a particular man, and did not become a human being, taking in union a human nature to His divine nature, then Jesus' sacrifice could only have accomplished a particular salvation, i.e. His own. His death could not have saved all of humanity. It's by virtue that God became a man, identifying with the human race as a whole, that Jesus can be a mediator between God and men. What makes Jesusí death of infinite value is not merely His sinlessness, but the fact that He was God manifest in the flesh. If Jesus was not metaphysically God Himself, but only indwelt a particular man (Christ), then His death could not save us. The infinite God became a man to die for us. This is the reason for the efficacy of Calvary. If the humanity of Christ was ever separate from His deity, which it would be if Jesus' humanity was created and then indwelt by God, this could not be true.
I do not believe that Jesus' humanity could have existed apart from the incarnation of God. There is an ontological union between the deity and humanity of Christ that occurred the moment the Holy Ghost conceived in Maryís womb. Jesus was not adopted as Godís Son, or made into a divine being at some point later in His life by the Father "infusing" His Spirit in Jesus. We believe that Jesus was God from His birth because it was God who became a man. Seeing an absolute ontological and hypostatic union between Christís two natures (in opposition to Nestorianism which sees them as separated), we believe that Jesusí humanity could not have existed apart from the Father, because it was the Father who contributed to His human existence. Just as we could not exist apart from the contribution of our mother and father, Jesusí humanity could not exist apart from the contribution of both the Father and Mary. In other words, we do not conceive of it even being possible that Jesus could ever be "just a man." We do not attribute absolute deity to Jesus Christ simply because God was in Him (John 10:38; 14:10-11; 17:21; II Corinthians 5:19; I Timothy 3:16). Jesus is ontologically divine and human from His conception, and could never be anything but God manifest in the flesh. There was never a time when the Spirit of God was not in Christ, or a time when Jesus' humanity ever existed apart from the contribution of God.
God did not just live in flesh as a man, but the "Word became flesh" (John 1:14). God is now a man in addition to being Spirit. God becoming a man does not mean He no longer exists as the omnipresent Spirit, but it does mean that His existence as a man is both authentic and permanent. Jesus did not merely put on a "robe of flesh" when He came to this earth. There was no separation of natures within Jesus as though He is two separate individuals living in one body. The flesh of Christ is not a mere shell that Deity moves within, and neither is Jesus' humanity independent of the His deity. In Christ the Spirit of God was inextricably and inseparably joined with the humanity.
It seems you make such a radical separation between humanity and deity that your view of Christ is Nestorian. Your view of the relationship between the deity and humanity of Christ is that they are two separate entities living in one body. The Nestorian view of Christ was condemned as heresy in A..D. 451, and is considered heresy by the standards of Oneness theology also. The orthodox understanding of Christ's two natures is that in the incarnation the deity and humanity were joined in such a way that they are united into one, and not divided; inseparable, yet distinguishable; the properties of each being present in Christ in their fullness, yet united as one person. The Spirit of God and the human spirit of Jesus were not blended to form a third substance that was not purely God or purely man (Eutycheanism), nor was the human nature overshadowed by the divine to the effect that Jesus only had one nature which was divine (Monophysitism). The deity was not compromised or obscured by the humanity, and neither was the humanity compromised or obscured by the deity; both being perfectly preserved in their wholeness and genuineness, yet united in every way. Neither were His two natures separated, but were unified in every way.
You seem to have difficulty accepting the idea that the fullness of the Godhead was in Christ. Your reasoning is that all of God could not be contained in a body. Remember though, we are not talking about a physical substance. When Colossians 2:9 says that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in Jesus bodily, it does not mean that all of God's Spirit was packaged into Jesus' body, and that God ceased existing everywhere else then. We do not have to fit all of God into a jar to have all of God. When we are filled with the Holy Ghost, does it only mean that we have a small fraction of God's Spirit? Can God be fragmented and divided up into pieces? I do not believe so. When we are filled with God's Spirit we have all of His Spirit in usóall in the sense of complete, not in the metaphysical sense. Likewise, when the Scripture says that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus bodily, it is speaking in the sense of "complete." Jesus' deity is not semi-divine, but His deity is everything that it means to be God. If we could take a sample of God's Spirit and capture it in a test-tube, everything that makes God who He is (Godhead) would be found in that tube. This is unlike anything else we know of. If you wanted to have my person indwell a car, every part of my physical existence would have to be in that car, to the exclusion of my presence being anywhere else. Such a concept does not apply to God. God is everywhere in His fullness. His fullness is not contained only by the sum of every part of the universe, but it found in the tiniest part, if I can speak of God in such metaphysical terms. So the fullness of God could dwell in Jesus bodily and still have God exist beyond the incarnation.
An analogy would be helpful here. This phenomenon could be compared to a balloon and air. Air permeates our atmosphere. This is likened to the Spirit of God who is invisible and omnipresent. Jesus is likened to the balloon that is filled with air. The balloon is the incarnation of the air. Just as the air in the balloon is no different than the air that is outside of the balloon, even so the deity in the man Christ Jesus is the same deity that exists as the omnipresent Spirit. Likewise, just as the air that is in the balloon continues to also exist outside of the balloon, so likewise the Spirit of God continues to exist beyond the incarnation as the omnipresent Spirit.
You also said, "Why did God need Mary at all if He was just going to make Himself into flesh?" This is not what I am saying. I believe that Mary contributed to part of Jesus' humanity. Most definitely Jesus was of the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3; II Timothy 2:8), but Mary was not the only one to contribute to Jesus' humanity. That God also had to have contributed to Jesus' humanity is evident in that if Mary alone would have added the human element to Christ's existence, Jesus could have only been a female. All that Mary's egg could have offered were X chromosomes. X chromosomes produce females. It takes the presence of Y chromosomes to produce a male child. Only men have this Y chromosome. Without a contribution of this Y chromosome Jesus could not have been born a human male. Where did this genetic influence come from then? The only answer can be that it was supplied by the Holy Ghost in the conception. Because God contributed an element necessary to Jesus' human existence, it is necessary to confess that Jesus received part of His humanity from the Father. God didn't place His deity within a human body made from Mary, or infuse His Spirit into a human body, but God actually fathered a son. That's why Jesus is commonly referred to as the only begotten Son of God.
However this occurred it cannot be said that Jesus was a created being. If any part of His humanity was created, He could not truly be said to be God. A creation is always separate from the creator. If I paint a picture, I cannot be the picture because I created it. Jesus would have been like a painting if He was created. Jesus, however, was God made known in the flesh. God became a human being at Jesus' conception. God didn't create a man, He is a man! He didn't merely make a human body, and then live in it. He became the human body.
The element offered by God to Jesus' conception would not have been a substance separate from God, but would have contained the essence of His deity that dwelt in Jesus' body (Colossians 2:9). The time at which this substance united with Mary's egg must have been the time that deity and humanity were brought into one existence, forming what we call the hypostatic union of Christ.
If Mary only added the human element to Christ, and God did not actually become a man, then we are left with a human being created by God apart from male sperm, and then this human was indwelt by God. If this is so, how does this make Jesus divine? We also have the Spirit of God in us. What makes Jesus different from us is that He was conceived by the Holy Ghost whereas we were not. Jesus' physical existence depended on the Fatherís deity at conception, but our physical existence is not dependent on the Father who is in us. Jesus would have never existed without the contributions made by His Father at His conception, but our existence is not dependent on the Father dwelling in us. Our being results from the physical union of two human parents. It is only after our conception that God comes to dwell in us. Whereas we are adopted as God's sons (Romans 8:14-17), receiving His Spirit after our birth, Jesus was born as God's Son (Luke 1:35), making Him essential deity.
Mary was not a mere surrogate mother for a flesh created by God. She was not some sort of incubator which contained a 'heavenly flesh.' The flesh truly originated from Mary's egg. If Jesus did not receive His humanity from Mary, then He could not be said to have been "of the seed of David." The Scripture clearly affirms the contribution Mary made to the existence of Jesus. Galatians 4:4 says, 'But when the fullness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.' The Greek word translated 'of' in the phrase 'of a woman' is ek. This word means 'out of.' Jesus was made out of a woman, He wasn't just born out of one. The author of Hebrews said 'he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham' (Hebrews 2:16). David was promised that it was through his genetic line that God would raise up the Messiah to rule on his throne (Psalm 132:11). If Mary was just an incubator for a created flesh, Jesus could have still been considered a genuine human being (Adam was a created man that didn't have a human mother but yet he was still completely human), but He wouldn't have been part of the Adamic race. If He was not part of the Adamic race, He couldn't save those who were separated from God because of Adam's sin (Romans 5:12-21; Hebrews 2:9-10, 14-18). Mary undoubtedly contributed to the humanity of Christ.
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