This is the weekly Q & A blog post by our Research Professor in Philosophy, Dr. William Lane Craig.
I have been listening to your Defenders series on the incarnation of Christ – a wonderful study for the festive season. You propose a model of the incarnation in which the incarnate Christ is omniscient but still has a normal, limited human knowledge. You suggest that Christ may have had the omniscient divine knowledge subliminally (or in his subconscious) and had normal human knowledge in his conscious mind (Defenders podcasts, series 3, section 7, part 7).
Firstly, how could the infinite data of an omniscient mind be “stored” in a finite human brain? If it isn’t “stored” in Jesus’ human brain, then how (if at all) is this data stored? Does this model of the incarnation implicitly commits us to substance dualism? (the notion that human minds have an independent metaphysical / spiritual component). If so, then are we making the bar too high for skeptical non-believers? In order to have a sound theological view of Christ, they also need to commit to a controversial idea in neuroscience.
Secondly you suggest that some people may take the view that Jesus couldn’t actually access the subliminal knowledge. If one took this view then how is this different to the view that Jesus divested himself of omniscience? (the Kenotic view which is generally rejected as heresy) It seems to me this would just be the same as the Logos emptying himself of omniscience.
Thank you for your wonderful work,
Dr. William Lane Craig's Response
Thanks for your questions, Pete!
First, it’s impossible for infinite knowledge to be stored in the human brain, amazing though it is. Therefore, such knowledge is the possession of the divine Logos, the second person of the Trinity, who becomes incarnate as Jesus of Nazareth. Yes, the model commits us to mind/body dualism. That’s a tenet of the model, wholly apart from concerns about omniscience. The idea is that the immaterial, divine Logos is the soul of Jesus of Nazareth; but only a tiny part of what he knows comes to conscious awareness during Christ’s so-called “state of humiliation” (i.e., his earthly sojourn). So from start to finish, the model presupposes dualism.
This doesn’t raise the bar too high for sceptical unbelievers because we’re offering the model merely as a possible explanation of how Christ can be both truly God and truly man. That would put the burden of proof back on the sceptic to show that the proposal is impossible. Good luck! Moreover, theism already commits us to an unembodied divine mind. If the unbeliever is willing to entertain that possibility, then the further proposal that there can be embodied minds as well doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch. For a good refutation of objections to mind/body dualism, see my colleague J. P. Moreland’s treatment in Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview, 2d ed. (IVP, 2017).
Second, if someone holds that Christ in his conscious awareness was not able to access the divine subliminal, this view is still entirely different from kenoticism, which denies that there is a divine subliminal! The kenotic theologian says that the Logos gave up omniscience for the sake of the incarnation. So Christ quite literally didn’t have superhuman knowledge. But on my neo-Apollinarian proposal, Christ has such knowledge subconsciously, and the divine subliminal would have the power to make that knowledge surface in consciousness, even if Jesus in his conscious awareness couldn’t make that happen.
This Q&A and other resources are available on Dr. William Lane Craig's website.