Saturday, September 09, 2006
Could Jesus Have Sinned?
Could Jesus have sinned? Nineteenth century, Princeton Theologian Charles Hodge argued that He could since for Hodge temptation always presupposes the possibility of sin. Naturally, therefore, Hodge reasoned that since Jesus was tempted, He must have been able to sin. In one sense, Hodge can be refuted quite readily since an action cannot be contrary to the decree of God; which would imply that since Jesus did not sin then he could not have sinned.
An argument that supports such a conclusion can be found at:
To get to the heart of what Hodge and others have asked, we might rephrase the question to “Could God have decreed that Jesus sin?” Even that, however, is an unsatisfactory question since God’s decree, being eternal, was necessary. I hope to Blog on the necessity of the divine decree in the weeks to come.
The question Hodge and others have tried to ask is indeed a hypothetical one that grants the Arminian notion of the non-necessity of choices that defy both the decree of God and the metaphysical axiom that responsible choices being caused are, therefore, necessary and not purely contingent. Such concessions as these do not, in my estimation, take away from the legitimacy of the question at hand. Whether the incarnate Christ could have sinned speaks to the question of His person, which deals with a most reasonable Christian inquiry.
The question we must concern ourselves with is whether an action (in this case the action of sin) defies an essential property of the person committing that action. For instance, if I were to have chosen to dine at a Chinese food restaurant last evening instead of a Mexican food restaurant, my choice would not have been contrary to my personhood, which is human, let alone destroyed it. However, had the incarnate Son of God sinned, he would no longer have been a divine person, which is a contradiction since divinity is an immutable property. The reason Christ could not have sinned is simply because were He to have sinned, He would have stopped being God incarnate. We might argue that if one state of affairs necessitates a contradictory state of affairs, then it is impossible that the first state of affairs obtain. If P, then Q; ~Q, therefore, ~P is a valid form of argumentation. Conseqently, it would seem to follow that if Jesus could have sinned, then Jesus could have stopped being God; but it’s not true that Jesus could have stopped being God; therefore, it is not true that Jesus could have sinned.
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