My Father is Greater Than I

Jason Dulle


When Jesus said, "My Father is greater than I" would it not be your position that the "I" there is the uni personal God? It would be my position that the "I" was the Son, a distinct person from the Father. According to your view though that "I" would simply be the human mode of existence of God, for if the "I" actually represented the same divine person as the Father, then it stands to reason that Jesus is saying "I am less then myself." Of course you would want us to understand that Jesus is only referring to His human mode of existence, not His divine mode of existence "beyond the incarnation," yet how can the "I" (the ego) be separated by mode insomuch that Jesus could refer to Himself as an "I" that he is less than?



I'll answer your question with a question. You bring up this verse in an attempt to demonstrate that God must be at least two divine persons. If that is what this verse demonstrates, we need to ask how it is that Jesus, who is God the Son incarnate (according to your view), can say the Father is greater than Himself if God the Son and God the Father are coequal? Jesus' words must be attributed to the second divine person because there is only one personal subject in Christ from whom all of Christ's acts flow, and that person is the divine person. The obvious answer is that such a statement was possible because of God's assumption of a genuine human consciousness in the incarnation. Even though Jesus' words must be attributed to the divine person, we must understood that the divine person spoke these words from His incarnate existence/consciousness as a genuine human being. In other words, Trinitarians can only make sense of Jesus' words in light of the incarnation of God into a limited human existence. It is understood that such speech is rooted in God's genuine humanity. In Trinitarian terms, God the Son--by uniting human nature to His person--willingly accepted all the human limitations that go along with such a nature, so that God the Son could be conscious of Himself as man, think as man, and pray like man, even though the person of Jesus Christ is the divine person Himself.

We ought to question why it is that God the Son prayed in the face of Jesus Christ. After all, it makes little sense for a divine person to pray, and yet Chalcedon rightly requires that the act of prayer be attributed to the divine person. We understand that the action of prayer, initiated by the divine person and mediated and expressed through the attributes of the human nature, is due to the genuineness of God's human existence. When the divine person became man, taking upon Himself human attributes, He acquired the ability/need to pray even though as God He has no need of prayer. The divine person would never need to pray, and indeed never prayed apart from His incarnate existence as man. It is obvious, then, that the incarnation allowed God to be conscious of Himself in a new manner, distinct from His normal divine manner of consciousness. This consciousness was so distinct from His normal divine manner of consciousness that He could pray to God and distinguish Himself from God, even though He was God Himself in the flesh. Ultimately, God the Son's new manner of existence as man, and His new consciousness as man was so distinct from His normal divine manner of consciousness that God the Son incarnate could distinguish Himself from Himself, and pray to God as if He was not God.

I say all of that to say that if Jesus' statement means that there are two persons in view, then why not conclude that the second person is inferior to the first? You would say that the second person is not inferior at all in His divine essence; He is only inferior in the particular mode of existence from which He spoke (human). I agree that it is the mode of existence from which the divine person spoke that would explain the inferiority inherent to Jesus' statement. So we would agree thus far. What we do not agree on is whether or not the distinction between the 'I' of Jesus and the 'him' of the Father requires that two distinct persons be in view. You argue that it does, whereas I argue that while it could be due to that fact, in need not be. When I look at all of the Scriptural data I have good reason to doubt that Jesus' statement should be interpreted as an indication of multiple divine persons.

You have asked me whether or not Jesus' statement, "my Father is greater than I," must not be interpreted to mean that Jesus and the Father are two distinct divine persons. You conclude that the reference to "Father" and "I" must indicate two distinct persons. In turn I ask you When Jesus said "I will ascend to your God and to my God" do the distinct referents, "God" and "my," mean that Jesus and God are two distinct persons-that Jesus is a human person, rather than the divine person incarnate? If the conscious self in Christ is the divine person, how can the divine person distinguish Himself from Himself to say that He, the divine person, will ascend to God when He is God? Is He going to ascend to Himself? If the use of two distinct nouns/pronouns in this case does not indicate that two persons are in view (one who is divine and one who is not), then we must not assume that the two distinct nouns/pronouns in the former case must indicate that two divine persons are in view.

If God's human consciousness is so distinct from His normal divine consciousness that He can distinguish Himself from Himself (God), making it appear as though Jesus and God are two distinct persons (one human and one divine), how is this phenomenon any different than what we find Jesus saying in the passage you mention? I do not see any fundamental difference. Just as Jesus statement that He was going to ascend to His God did not mean that Jesus was not God, or that Jesus is a distinct person from the Triune God, likewise Jesus' statement that the Father was greater than He does not mean that there are two divine persons in view. The Oneness view is entirely consistent with this passage.

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