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  • Writer's picture Peter Kupisz

How Can Jesus be Omniscient and Not Know Certain Facts?

Was Jesus Christ fully God and fully man? If so, how come he did not know certain facts such as the day and hour of his return to earth? (Matt. 24:36)

There are various attempts to explain this puzzle and perhaps the best one is provided by William Lane Craig (Ph.D. philosophy, Th.D. theology) and J.P. Moreland (Ph.D. philosophy). In their book, Philosophical Foundations of a Christian Worldview, they suggest that Jesus’ divine mind acted as a sort of “subconscious mind” to Jesus’ conscious human mind. This is how they put it.

…Jesus possessed a normal human conscious experience. But the human consciousness of Jesus was underlain, as it were, by a divine subconsciousness. This understanding of Christ’s personal experience draws on the insight of depth psychology that there is vastly more to a person than waking consciousness. The whole project of psychoanalysis is based on the conviction that some of our behaviors have deep springs of action of which we are only dimly, if at all, aware…
…in the Incarnation—at least during his state of humiliation—the Logos [i.e. divine aspect of Jesus] allowed only those facets of his person to be part of Christ’s waking consciousness which were compatible with typical human experience, while the bulk of his knowledge and other cognitive perfections, like an iceberg beneath the water’s surface, lay submerged in his subconscious. On the model we propose, Christ is thus one person, but in that person conscious and subconscious elements are differentiated in a theologically significant way…
Such a model provides a satisfying account of the Jesus we see in the Gospel portrait. In his conscious experience, Jesus grew in knowledge and wisdom, just as a human child does. One does not have the monstrosity of the baby Jesus lying in the manger possessing the full divine consciousness. In his conscious experience, we see Jesus genuinely tempted, even though he is, in fact, impeccable [i.e. unable to sin]. The enticements of sin were really felt and could not be blown away like smoke; resisting temptation required spiritual discipline and moral resoluteness on Jesus’ part. In his waking consciousness, Jesus is actually ignorant of certain facts, though kept from error and often supernaturally illumined by the divine subliminal. Even though the Logos [i.e. divine aspect of Jesus] possesses all knowledge about the world from quantum mechanics to auto mechanics, there is no reason to think that Jesus of Nazareth would have been able to answer questions about such subjects, so low had he stooped in condescending to take on the human condition. Moreover, in his conscious life, Jesus knew the whole gamut of human anxieties and felt physical hurt and fatigue. The model also preserves the integrity and sincerity of Jesus’ prayer life, and it explains why Jesus was capable of being perfected through suffering. He, like us, needed to be dependent on his Father moment by moment in order to live victoriously in a fallen world and to carry out successfully the mission with which he had been charged.

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James Porter Moreland and William Lane Craig, Philosophical Foundations for a Christian Worldview (Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 610–12.



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