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The Paradox of the God-Human

Updated on May 30, 2014

Jesus, the God-Human

Is it possible for the same entity to be both divine and human?

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Divine Attributes

Although human, Jesus has divine attributes.

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The God-Human

To the Hebrew - and to the Muslim - the attribution of humanity to a divine being constitutes blasphemy. Yet, notwithstanding its Hebraic provenance, Christianity incorporates the central dogma of a perfect divine incarnation that results in a person who is fully divine and fully human at the same time.

Historically speaking, it may well be argued that this paradoxical synthesis was the result of the dissemination of the new religion among Jewish monotheists and, later, also among Greek- and Roman-speaking pagans who had been habituated to the generation of demigods out of supposed unions of divine with human beings. The Jews wanted their non-divine Messiah but the pagans of the Empire divinized the Messiah-turned-universal-Savior and this explains the paradoxical syncretism of the divine and human hypostases or essences that are jointly attributed to the same entity.

Regardless of the historical explanation, the Gospels are supposed to stand on their own as sources of transcendental and revealed truth. The devotee of Christianity is supposed to affirm the truths vouchsafed by the sacred text regardless of what historical investigations show or fail to discover about the origins of the religion.

The paradox of the divine-human is embedded in the Gospel text itself. We can think of the sacred texts as a language: in this language, the definition of "God" remains Hebraic - it is not replaced by the pagan definition. Given this definition of God - symbolize the definition-sentence by "g" - it follows that whoever is divine cannot possibly be human. So, if the Messiah is divine, he cannot be human. Yet, at the same time the text also affirms the humanity of the same person. This amounts to asserting a contradiction (x both is and is not divine, or x both is and is not human). Contradictions are presumed to be unassertable when one is intent on rightly asserting something. Hence the devout is brought to asserting to what cannot be rightly asserted. This explains why Christianity was seen from early on as an irrational or absurd faith - although one would not be sure of this in the aftermath of the attempted Catholic synthesis of the Scriptures with Aristotelian philosophy.

If contradictions cannot be understood, does the faithful assert something that he or she cannot possibly understand?

This is not the end of the story... One gets the impression, so far: there is a scandal and a challenge in the dogma - as Paul told the philosophizing Athenians he met during his peregrinations. Can we apply logical analysis to this puzzle?

Is your Logic Classical?

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What is Logic?

Note what the word "logic" means here. It doesn't mean "what the smart thing to do is" or "what is sensible as a course of action." Logic has to do with what is permissible and what is not permissible when meaningful statements are put together - which is what we always do in language.

For instance, it is a matter of logic that, given "it is raining and it is cloudy" we can rightly assert as necessarily true that "it is raining" (also that "it is cloudy.") Or that, given "it is either cloudy or it is raining" we CANNOT rightly assert that "it is raining". Notice that this inference act that should or should not take place is not a matter of psychology: I might think that I have a right to make an inference from p and q to r even though this is wrong!

Who is to say what the right logic is? The best answer is this: it all depends on the meanings of certain words in a language (words like "not" and "and" and "if-then" and "all" and "some", etc.) You cannot rightly infer "it is raining" from "either it is raining or it is snowing" because of the meanings of the words "either-or" in the language. It is irrelevant whether you are aware of this subjectively. It is like this: the competent speaker of a language cannot rightly assert that "a triangle has four angles." If I do assert it, and if I think that I can rightly assert, I am still wrong!

IF the meanings of the words "not" and "and" are classical, as we say, then any statement of the form "p and not-p" (no matter what "p" says) is a contradiction and cannot be rightly asserted. Again, this is not about what the subject knows. It is like the ideal user of the language acting. I might think that baseball, as defined, works with the rule "2 strikes and you are out", but I am wrong; the ideal user of the language, knowing the meaning of the word "baseball," does not commit this error.

All this is not well understood even among well-educated professionals - unless they have studied Logic. The situation becomes urgent when someone needs to prepare for something like the Law School Admission Test: even the most brilliant student has to prepare now -- this test is purely a logic test.

Is the Logic of your Theology Classical?

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Is There One Logic or Many?

The view that there are more than one logics is called Logical Pluralism. It is logic we are talking about - so, this is not a matter of what tastes people have (it is not like saying that different people have different preferences about what logic should be.) Logic is always a normative matter: it orders the competent user how to move as he or she plays a language game. In the logic of chess, the knight moves in a specified manner describing an "L". It is not an objection to say that in everyday life this is not the rule; this is the rule within chess. The chess player has no option or choice when it comes to this. Rules order. Logic is like that.

The traditional view - at least the dominant view defended by Aristotle - was that there is one and only one way the human mind works when it works properly and logic is, accordingly, like reason, absolute or global. This view takes meaning to depend on making copies of the world out there. It can be adjusted to take meaning as a mind-generated picture-like phantasmagoria. Nevertheless, the modern view is that meaning is parasitic on language. No language, no meaning! If this is the case, one may begin to question the Absolutist view. Could it be that different languages, or even different parts of the same language, have different logic rules (like different games having different rules) - which means that there may well be many different logics at work? It becomes an empirical matter to investigate what logic may be at work for a given part of a language. This would have shocked Aristotle but it would have delighted some of the Sophists of ancient Greece whose work was deemed dangerous by posterity and has reached only in fragmentary form.


© 2014 Odysseus Makridis


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