If you’ve been around Christianity long enough, you’ve probably heard someone say that Jesus was “fully man and fully God.” Perhaps you’ve heard some other variation. Perhaps you’ve wondered how that is possible. Hopefully, at the very least, you took it on faith. Better than that, hopefully you’ve wrestled with it a bit in order to get an understanding that you feel comfortable with intellectually.
One way that I have seen this characterized is that Jesus was “100% man and 100% God.” This, of course, invites a number of criticisms as some will point out that this is a simple error of mathematics. You cannot have 200% of a single thing. How can Jesus be 100% + 100%. Some, more sophisticated skeptics, might argue that this violates the Law of Non-Contradiction.
However, it seems to me that this is neither a logical fallacy nor a mathematical error. Though I will agree that the way it is sometimes articulated can lead to such confusion unless the terms are explained properly. In case you were wondering, that’s what I’m trying to do, here.
There have been several ways that I have heard this claim restated in order to reduce confusion. Some might teach that it is better to say that Jesus was “truly God and truly man.” Then we don’t have to worry about mathematical issues or any of that sort of thing. While I do think that eliminates some of the confusion, the fact is, most people don’t use that language, so I want to make sure that the language that does get used is understood in order prevent people from stumbling over this.
When the Church makes the claim that Jesus was “fully God and fully man,” what they are referring to is something qualitative rather than quantitative. In other words, we believe that Jesus was “fully God” in the sense that His nature, or His essence, was such that it satisfied the requirements of divinity. Jesus was not a created being. He possessed all of the attributes of divinity (omniscience, omnipotence, eternality, etc.). It is in this sense that Jesus could be said to have been “fully God.”
Also, Jesus also met all the requirements of being “fully man.” He “grew in wisdom and stature.” He was probably sick at some point. He got tired, hungry, stressed. He also (insofar as His human nature was concerned) died. That is a pretty significant human attribute.
Some might also argue that He did not have a “sin nature” and was therefore not “fully” man. That would be incorrect, however, because Man is not necessarily sinful. Let us not forget that prior to the Fall, Adam and Eve had not sinned and there was no “sin nature” in Man. That came after the Fall and has been passed down to us from generation to generation. Since Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, He did not take on Adam’s sin nature.
So, in short, the reason we can say Jesus was “fully God and fully man” is because He met all the essential requirements and had all the necessary attributes of both. It does not mean that He was 200% of something. He simply had two natures, one divine and one human. I am not going to pretend I understand how that could be. But, my goal here was to help clarify that this description fits and is not contradictory.
Grace, love and peace.