This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
Dear Dr. William Lane Craig,
I can't thank you enough for all of your incredible work. I don't know if you remember or not, but last year you drove with Pastor Matt from Solace Church at Berryhill, Oklahoma, and he talked about me. I'm that 15-(then-14)-year-old who was always asking questions. Because of your work, I have been blessed with the opportunity to convert two of my fellow 9th-grade students (an agnostic between Hinduism and Christianity and an unusual breed of a postmodernist, pluralist, and a Christian-influenced version of Celtic Mythology) to Christianity this last school year and convert one more (an agnostic) to theism all in limited amounts of time with conversational ease and tactical awareness. I also had the opportunity to do an extemp speech in my second day of policy debate class, refuting the postmodernism that my debate coach was going to teach in the 2nd semester! You have made so much of an impact.
But I digress. My question is about the model of the Incarnation you and J.P. Moreland present in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, which states that many of the divine attributes of Jesus were located in his subconsciousness. I'm having a problem with this. Maximal greatness would seem to me to imply having access to any and all knowledge on the spot, which would in turn seem to imply that God would have omniscience in His consciousness, where all the knowledge can be directly accessed. Can you please clear this up for me?
So my questions:
- Does maximal greatness imply omniscience in the consciousness rather than the subconsciousness?
- Are there any other coherent models of the Incarnation about which you know?
- Are you coming to speak or debate in Oklahoma any time soon?
Your answer means the world to me. I think that the alleged incoherence of the Incarnation is the most intellectually powerful argument against Christianity. If I can answer this, all other objections are a breeze. Thank you so much for your answer (if you answered this).
Dr. William Lane Craig’s Response
Thanks for your kind remarks, Dylan!
Omniscience may be defined as follows: A person S is omniscient if and only if for any proposition p, S knows that p and does not believe not-p. Since omniscience is an essential property of God, Jesus Christ must be omniscient, even during his earthly sojourn (his so-called state of humiliation). But just as you and I know vastly more than we are at any time conscious of, so Christ need not be conscious of all that he knows in order to be omniscient. So on my proposed model, much of Jesus’ divine knowledge is subliminal during his earthly life.
Still, you might say, you and I can (usually!) bring to consciousness what we know, should we wish to. If Christ is maximally excellent cognitively, then he, too, must be able to bring to consciousness what he knows, even if during his earthly sojourn he voluntarily prescinds from accessing the divine subliminal.
My model leaves that option open. It is consistent with saying that Christ could have drawn upon his subliminal knowledge, had he chosen to do so, but he refrained from doing so, thereby having an authentic human consciousness.
So in answer to your questions:
- Does maximal greatness imply omniscience in the consciousness rather than the subconsciousness? I don’t see any reason to think so. Even if maximal greatness implies “having access to any and all knowledge on the spot,” it doesn’t follow that Christ needed to be conscious of all that he knew, but at most that he could access anything that he knew (total recall).
- Are there any other coherent models of the Incarnation about which you know? I’m not currently working in this area and so am not familiar with current discussions. But I like very much what Tom Morris had to say in his fine book The Logic of God Incarnate (Cornell University Press, 1986), which remains indispensable reading.
- Are you coming to speak or debate in Oklahoma any time soon? No, but thanks for asking!
This post and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website: www.reasonablefaith.org