If a divine person takes on a human nature, is that not a change
Only if the Divine Person in question already existed BEFORE taking on human
nature. But, for those of us who believe in Divine Timelessness, it just simply
is not true that the Son existed first for a certain length of time without His
human nature, and then LATER took on human nature. Also, the Divine Person of
the Son is BOTH unchangeable AND changeable: In His divinity, He is
unchangeable, while in His humanity, He is changeable. Likewise, the Divine
Person of the Son is both timeless AND temporal: In His divinity, He is
timeless, while in His humanity, He is temporal. So, yes, it is true that a
change occurred in that the human nature of the Son first did not exist, and
then afterwards came to exist (for the Incarnation is a temporal event). BUT,
it does not follow from this that the Person of the Son first existed without
His human nature, and then afterwards came to have His human nature.
For, BEFORE the time of the Incarnation, i.e., APART from the Incranation [SIC], there is no temporal succession involved in the existence of the Person of the Son of which one can speak. Thus, the Incarnation does not in any manner whatosever [SIC] either contradict or weaken the absolute nature of the Divine Unchangeability
If I may borrow a term from another participant on the Evangelical-Witnesses forum, this explanation is practically unintelligible. Moreover, it begs the question (petitio principii) by asserting that which should be demonstrated through the use of logic in one form or another. But to talk about the Son adding humanity to his deity without a change or event occurring is unintelligible. It contradicts the principles of basic logic and it flies in the face of our bodily experience in the phenomenal realm. In his answer, the aforementioned forum participant claims that the human nature of "God the Son" did not exist, but then subsequently came to exist since the Incarnation is a putative temporal event. But even if we prescind from the question of whether God is temporal or atemporal, we must nevertheless ask how motion occurs without a state of affairs being altered. Motion (understood in its broad sense of any change whatsoever like the Latin motus can signify) cannot occur without a state of affairs being altered which involves a person in given state of affairs undergoing some type of alteration or change.
Yet, how is it possible for a timeless or immutable God (in the absolute sense) to undergo change or experience motus? The previous claim that God the Son becomes incarnate, thereby adding humanity to his deity, is unintelligible without invoking change. Other theologians have admitted the "mystery" that attends this "temporal" event. O how blessed we would be to have such an admission from the person who tried to answer the question above.
According to A.W. Pink, there are at least three ways in which God is immutable:
First, God is immutable in His essence. His nature and being are infinite, and so, subject to no mutations. There never was a time when He was not; there never will come a time when He shall cease to be. God has neither evolved, grown, nor improved.
Secondly, God is immutable in His attributes. Whatever the attributes of God were before the universe was called into existence, they are precisely the same now, and will remain so forever. Necessarily so; for they are the very perfections, the essential qualities of His being. Semper idem (always the same) is written across every one of them. His power is unabated, His wisdom undiminished, His holiness unsullied.
Thirdly, God is immutable in His counsel. His will never varies. Perhaps some are ready to object that we ought to read the following: "And it repented the Lord that He had made man" (Gen 6:6). Our first reply is, Then do the Scriptures contradict themselves? No, that cannot be. Numbers 23:19 is plain enough: "God is not a man, that He should lie; neither the son of man, that He should repent." So also in 1 Samuel 15:19, "The strength of Israel will not lie nor repent: for He is not a man, that He should repent."
But if God is absolutely immutable, then how did God "become" incarnate? How would Pink explain God the Son adding humanity to his deity? Furthermore, does not the language of "becoming" suggest that motion (motus) or change occurs? The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy states:
The Incarnation is an especially knotty problem for DDI's [the doctrine of divine immutability's] Christian friends. In general, these argue that all change it involved occurred in the human nature God the Son assumed rather than in God; God was eternally ready to be incarnate, and eternally had those experiences of the earthly Christ which the Incarnation makes part of his life. Through changes in Mary and the infant she bore, what was eternally in God eventually took place on earth.
God eternally experienced what the earthly Christ would undergo when he "became" flesh? How could God have those experiences without change occurring in his preexistent state?
Brian Hebblethwaite makes an interesting point regarding the Incarnation and change in God. In his book entitled Philosophical Theology and Christian Doctrine (page 45), he writes:
The Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, which we
shall be considering in the next chapter, is very hard
to square with the classical view of [divine] timeless
eternity. But so is the notion of a timeless act of
creation. For an act is surely a novel realization of
a prior intention, an actualization of a
In a nutshell (in nuce), Hebblethwaite is saying that it is difficult to understand how a timeless, immutable God becomes man or creates the universe. For the Incarnation doctrine implies that the LOGOS became flesh, whereas the doctrine of creation indicates that God acted to bring creation into being ex nihilo. Both notions appear problematic in the light of divine atemporality.