Christmas Book Review: The Logic of God Incarnate
The Logic of God Incarnate is my favorite Christmas book. Is HM Relton right that “The person of Christ is the bankruptcy of human logic”? Tom Morris argues that contemporary philosophical objections to the Incarnation fail.
This is a fantastic, thought provoking book that I will definitely read again. As promised in the synopsis, Morris does a great job parsing out the key metaphysical distinctions for retaining the coherency of the orthodox claim that God the Son is identical to Jesus of Nazareth. The key takeaways: (i) common properties are not necessarily essential properties and (ii) merely human and fully human are not the same thing. Overall, I rate this book a 4.6/5
For much of the book, I was skeptical of his proposed “two-minds” model. The terminology is terrible because it sounds exactly like he is promoting Nestorianism. Well, he isn’t and while I’m a little hesitant to fully endorse it, it does seem like a coherent and plausible model. I was especially persuaded by his argument concerning the possibility of multiple incarnations.
It was difficult for me to get my head around some of the concepts because of my layman knowledge of metaphysics. Nevertheless, the salient points are well communicated and I definitely recommend this book if you are interested in sophisticated defenses of Chalcedonian Christology.
In ch. 1, Morris lays out the incoherence charge, surveys a few defensive maneuvers but dismisses them as ad hoc manipulation of the principle of indiscernible identical. In Ch. 2, Morris addresses two alternatives to orthodoxy: the one-nature view as espoused by Ronald Leigh and the reduplactive properties view espoused by RT Herbert. The first fails on the grounds that it assumes objects cannot have kind-natures essentially. The second fails as it only works for representational properties. Morris’s central argument centers on the fact that a common feature of all members of a kind-nature is not an essential property. For example, all humans have been born on planet earth; however, not-being-born-on-earth is not a property that would disqualify a being from being human.
Morris addresses the temptation & impeccability experienced by Christ. The chief argument is epistemic, not alethic, possibility of sin is sufficient for temptation. Paralleling Frankfurt cases, Morris argues that the human range of consciousness held a belief set which entailed the possibility of sin, yet, this was never genuinely open. I’m not sure about Morris’s two-mind model that undergirds his analysis, though.
The last chapter, “The Cosmic Christ”, deals with the objection that Christianity is too small, or, “Did Jesus die for Klingons?” Morris argues that (i) most of these arguments ultimately boil down to “muh unevangelized” and (ii) his “two-mind” view accounts for multi-planetary incarnations. I found the thought experiment helpful. Morris’s answer keeps the Son as the only redeemer.
One of the most interesting sections was Morris’s argument for the essential goodness of God which I have adapted as follows:
On the Anselmian view, God is, among other things, essentially omnipotent and omniscient. Can we derive essential goodness from these two properties? Consider the following reductio.
Assume in some world W God commits an evil act at time t and thus ceases to be good. Consider the moment right before at time t – 1. There are two options:
(a) God does *not* intend to do the evil act
(b) God does intend to do the evil act
If (a) is true and God commits the evil act at t, then He could not be considered omnipotent for He would be coerced into doing something.
If (b) is true, then God actually ceases to be good at t – 1 for sin is a condition of the heart. Thus, by intending to do evil, God has ceased to be good. This creates a bigger issue because if God is omniscient, then He knew what His intentions were from the beginning of creation. Indeed, it was at the beginning of creation that He decreed all of His future acts, including, in this thought experiment, the evil act at time t. However, if He intended to do evil at the beginning of creation, then at no time has God been good.
The reductio is complete: if God does evil at time t, it was either in accord with His intentions or against His intentions. If it was always His intention to do evil, He has never been good. If was was never His intention, He is not omnipotent.
This gives us
(G) If God is (i) essentially omnipotent and (ii) essentially omniscient and (iii) good at time t, then, God is good for all t.
Unfortunately, the modal scope of this argument is limited. We can conclude that God is contingently (although eternally) good, but, it does not show God is good in every possible world.