Greg and Amy explain how accidental versus essential qualities of humanity help us to understand why Jesus could be fully human without experiencing anything that results from having a fallen nature.
Question: How can Jesus have had the fully human experience if he never doubted if there was a God, never struggled to hear from him, or grieved not knowing if he’d see his loved one again?
Greg: No one who understands the Incarnation is saying that Jesus had the “fully human experience.” What we are saying is that Jesus was fully human, and he experienced the standard kinds of things that humans experience in virtue of being human. So, in this sense, he was more like Adam, where Adam didn’t have all of that.
Human beings have guilt. They feel guilt—actual culpability for wrong things that they have done. Well, this is part of the universal human experience of fallen human beings, but Jesus never felt that—because he felt the consequence of guilt on the cross, but he never felt guilty because he never was guilty. No deceit was ever found in his mouth—that’s 1 Peter 2.
There is not a one-to-one correlation between the life of Jesus and our lives. Clearly, there are things that he did not personally experience, because they are inconsistent with his being a sinless human being. However, notice that none of these are essential parts of being human. They are what are called accidental parts. I used to have brown hair, and now I have white hair. This property that I had of the color of my hair is accidental. In other words, it could have been otherwise, and I could still be me.
Man’s fallenness is not an essential property to humanity. God didn’t make human beings fallen. It was a consequence of their behavior. He made them able to fall, but he did not make them bad. And, by the way, this comes up a lot in conversations with people who question the sexual morality of the Bible. They say, “Why would God make me gay and then tell me not to pursue that kind of sex?” Well, that presumes that God made them gay. Why would anybody believe that? There is no evidence for such a thing—certainly no theological evidence and no biological evidence. That’s an urban legend when it comes to the research.
So, when God made human beings, he made them morally innocent. No sin. But he didn’t make them immutably innocent. Jesus, also, was made morally innocent, and he had all the qualities that are native to humanity. There are many experiences that we have that are in virtue of being in a fallen world. By the way, he did share in a lot of those things. When he suffered, he uttered no threats, and when he was reviled, he did not revile in return but kept entrusting himself to him who judges righteously. That’s in the end of 1 Peter 2. So, Jesus succumbed to the experience of the contingencies of a fallen world, but there are other features of his life that are obviously going to be different because of his divine nature and the fact that, until the cross, he was in complete and perfect harmony with the Father. Relational harmony. We don’t have that. We don’t have anything like that, and that’s something that will be the case—if I understand John 17, the prayer there, properly— but it’s not now.
Amy: So, when I look at these specific things mentioned—he never doubted there was a God. He never struggled to hear from him. He was never grieved, not knowing if he’d see his loved one again—all of these things are a result of separation from God, which is a result of being a fallen human being and a lack of trust in God or a separation from God. So, obviously, Jesus wouldn’t have those things. When Adam was first created, he was not fallen. So, it can’t be essential to being a human being, or Adam wasn’t a human being. So, the idea that it’s not central to human nature, I think, is going to be key here. Fallenness is accidental. It’s not essential. Everything that was essential to being a true human was true about Jesus.