Philosophy and incarnation

Steven A Long, Marquette University


This study examines the logical coherence of the theological claim that Jesus was "truly man and truly God." The primary question dealt with is whether or not it is possible for one person to have all of the properties necessary for being fully divine and all of the properties necessary for being fully human. The philosophical approach is analytic, focusing upon alleged coherence problems generated by applying the Indiscernibility of Identicals to statements about Jesus. Two extended arguments against the coherence of the doctrine of the incarnation are examined and rebutted. The bulk of the study is a presentation and evaluation of five modern philosophical approaches to solving the coherence problems generated by the Indiscernibility of Identicals. These are Relative Trinitarianism, the One-Nature view, the Reduplicative maneuver, kenoticism, and the Two-Minds view. Relative Trinitarianism is rejected because it denies the Indiscernibility of Identicals as a logical principle. The One-Nature view unnecessarily alters the concept of divinity and it, too, is rejected. Traditional kenoticism is judged an inadequate response to the incoherence challenge, but a revised kenoticism does show that many statements about Jesus can be coherently stated. This revised kenoticism eliminates coherence problems concerning many properties of Jesus, but not all. Some statements about Jesus, particularly modal statements, can be coherently stated as reduplicative statements. The problem is that some Steven A. Long incarnational property adjectives do not appear to be logically attributive, hence they cannot be predicated reduplicatively. Though the Two-Minds view is rejected, some features of it are used to show how incarnational property adjectives can be logically attributive and predicated reduplicatively. The conclusion is that there are no convincing arguments against the coherence of the incarnation and that a revised kenoticism and the Reduplicative maneuver together can be used to formulate a coherent interpretation of the doctrine of the incarnation that is possibly true.

Recommended Citation

Long, Steven A, "Philosophy and incarnation" (1995). Dissertations (1962 - 2010) Access via Proquest Digital Dissertations. AAI9600856.