February 22, 2011

Restrained Power Model of the Incarnation

The mystery of the Incarnation is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, remained fully divine while becoming fully human. Almighty divinity became a human.[1] Many philosophers say that such an incarnation is "impossible, self-contradictory, incoherent, absurd, and unintelligible" because the divinity that supposedly created the universe with almighty power cannot also be a human with finite power.[2] This brief introduction of the "restrained power model of the Incarnation" proposes an analogy of how an almighty deity can temporarily restrain himself to use only finite power.

As stated above, many philosophers claim that an almighty deity is incapable of temporarily limiting himself to human finiteness. However, there are many examples of power with temporary restraints. For example, a particular power ratchet wrench has a maximum torque of seventy foot-pound force while the wrench torque adjusts from one to seventy foot-pound force. In some uses of the wrench, the seventy foot-pound force would destroy the bolt so the wrench is sometimes set to a lesser torque such as ten foot-pound force. Likewise, for a particular job, the wrench operates at no more than ten foot-pound force while the wrench was fully compatible with working at seventy foot-pound force. The wrench never lost its full power, but temporarily used a setting of a lesser power. Also, when the wrench goes back to it full power, it never loses its ability to operate at lesser powers.

The example of the adjustable power ratchet wrench is a powerful analogy for the Incarnation. The Son of God, the Almighty, temporarily limited his power to human limits on earth while remaining fully capable of creating new universes and knowing all possibilities. There is no impossibility, self-contradiction, incoherency, absurdity, or unintelligibly in this analogy of the incarnation. In fact, it appears absurd to insist that a maximally powerful deity could not temporarily limit himself to a finite human life on earth.

1. The term almighty requires a caveat. Almighty means "all power within the context of consistency." For example, an almighty deity cannot make an unbending rod that he cannot bend because this scenario is logically impossible and physically inconsistent. In other words, an almighty deity has maximal power, all possible power.

2. Murray, Michael and Rea, Michael, "Philosophy and Christian Theology", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2008 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2008/entries/christiantheology-philosophy/.

3. Murray, Michael and Rea, Michael, "Philosophy and Christian Theology."

Copyright © 2011 James Edward Goetz

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