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How Can It Be that a Man Was God?
An excerpt from Letters From a Skeptic – a brand new book by Dr. Gregory A. Boyd
Between March, 1989, and November, 1991, Dr. Greg Boyd – an associate professor of theology at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota-conducted an intense and lively correspondence with his 70+ year-old father in Lake Placid, Florida. His father, at the time, was an unconvinced skeptic with many questions about the plausibility of the Christian faith. While the subject of their correspondence excerpted below is not necessarily considered to be a Bible contradiction per se, many folks do charge that the whole idea of the incarnation of an infinite God in human form is perhaps the most glaring ‘contradiction’ of all in the Bible. Since the subject fit the season so well, we decided to run it this month before proceeding with our current series on Bible contradictions.
July 16, 1990
How can you believe that a man, a literal human being, was God? That just seems to be something out of pagan superstition. It’s an utter contradiction! I know Christians hold to a trinity, that part of God was down here while part of God was up there, or something like that. But simply holding that Jesus was a faith healer, who somehow resuscitated, and whose followers (one in particular) then went overboard making claims about Him explains everything without requiring a belief in such impossible notions.
Let me know what you think of this.
July 28, 1990
Hello Dear Father:
Is the belief that Jesus embodies God’s presence in human form a contradiction, as you suggest? On what basis can anyone maintain this? It would be a contradiction only if being God by definition ruled out being human, and vice versa. But do we know enough, through our own little reason, about the nature of God, or the nature of humans, to conclude this? I think not. The only way we could know the nature of God is by God Himself telling us, and all the evidence suggests that Jesus Christ is just the place where this “telling” is done.
The Incarnation is, I grant, paradoxical, for we cannot understand how it is true. But it is not contradictory, for it is not nonsense to hold that it is true.
The analogy that is frequently used by theologians is that physicists say something similar about the nature of light. It can be proven that light has both wave and particle-like features. But this is paradoxical, for we have no way of conceiving how something could have both of these features simultaneously. But since the evidence for both features is incontrovertible, physicists yet assert that it is, in fact, true.
Something similar may be said of the Trinity, which you also raised in your previous letter. This is not a belief that ‘part of’ God was a man while ‘part of’ God was in heaven. God is Spirit, and thus can’t be “divided up.” Rather, this belief is (among other things) the belief that God fully exists as transcendent Father, while God fully exists as Incarnate Son, while God also fully exists as indwelling Spirit (in the hearts of believers). God exists, and eternally has always existed, in three different ways. That’s what the doctrine of the Trinity comes to. Is this a contradiction? No, but it is paradoxical. We can’t conceive how it is true, but there are good grounds for believing that it is true. And who would claim to know enough about God’s nature by reason alone to say that God couldn’t exist in this fashion?
I hope I’ve addressed your theory and your questions adequately. The bottom line is this: the evidence for the Resurrection and the deity of Christ stands or falls together, and there is simply no legitimate rational basis to the notion that the conclusion this evidence points to is inherently impossible.
I can tell you are taking the evidence seriously. I sincerely hope you follow it through to its only viable conclusion. Make Jesus the Lord and Savior of your life.
With love and hope,
Editor’s Note: as a result of this and much other correspondence, many of Edward Boyd’s questions were resolved. On January 15, 1992, he made an advised commitment to Jesus Christ as his own Lord and Savior. We encourage you to purchase and read the book.
Reprinted from Letters from a Skeptic, ©1994, Victor Books, SP Publications, Wheaton IL. Used by permission.’