If Jesus Was the Father, Why Would He
Pray to the Father?

Jason Dulle


I have another question for you. I am having a difficult time understanding the nature of the distinction between the Father and the Son. I understand that the Son is different from the Father inasmuch as he possesses a human nature, while the Father does not. Starting from the Oneness assertion that Jesus is the Father's hypostasis (Greek word for person) incarnate, and If we follow the method of Chalcedonian Christology, then in Jesus there is also union of the divine and human hypostasis in a way that makes Christ a fully integrated and fully functioning person. Therefore, the distinction between Jesus and the Father is the union, which the Father lacks. At the same time, the hypostasis of Christ is also the hypostasis of the Father, for the hypostatic union does not destroy the distinctness of each, as Eutyches and the Monophysites said about the dual nature. It is here, however, that I run into problems when I see the way Jesus prays to the Father and refers to him. If Jesus shares the hypostasis of the Father, It is difficult to see him praying to the Father, for a person only prays to another person. If you were to say that he prays because of the presence of humanity in his hypostasis, then I would protest that this sounds like the Monophysite solution: the two hypostasis would have to blend in order to make one distinct from the first, for if there is a union in the Chalcedonian sense, then one person (hypostasis) could not pray to (orient itself externally from) itself, union or no union.

To put it differently, Jesus is the indivisible sum of the divine and human hypostases; however, he still contains the original divine hypostasis distinctly. Since there is only one divine hypostasis according to Oneness theology, and a hypostasis cannot pray to itself, then it would seem to follow that Jesus cannot pray to the Father, since He still contains, whether he is equivalent to or not, the Father's hypostasis.

Also, traditional Oneness theology says that God indwelled Jesus; however, you have said in one of your essays that this is not merely the case: God also became flesh. How could Jesus be God, yet say, "The Father is IN me?" I guess this simply ties back with the question of the hypostatic union, so it may be answered when you answer the other questions.

Well, I appreciate all of your help, especially since you have spent so much time and energy talking to me. You have been an angel of God for me, and without your help I would have floundered theologically a while ago.




Concerning your first question, you said: "Starting from the Oneness assertion that Jesus is the Father's hypostasis incarnate, and If we follow the method of Chalcedonian Christology (that is, if I'm not confounding its terminology here), then in Jesus there is also union of the divine and human hypostasis in a way that makes Christ a fully integrated and fully functioning person. Therefore, the distinction between Jesus and the Father is the union, which the Father lacks." I agree. Now, if Jesus "possesses" the deity of the Father, we still do not have any problem with Jesus praying to the Father because Jesus also has a genuine human nature which is distinct, but not separate from His divine nature. If Jesus was not a human being, and thus was only the Father, He obviously would have no need of prayer. The prayers of Christ arise from the genuineness of His human nature, not His divine nature. This is not to say that "Jesus only prayed as a man" or that "Jesus only prayed in His human nature," but it is to say that Jesus only had need of prayer because of His human nature. Apart from the incarnation, there would be no need of praying, for God does not need to pray. Only God, limited by the assumption of a genuine human existence, needs to pray. We do not understand this as meaning that the divine nature of Christ prayed to the Father, because then we have God praying to Himself. This is not the portrayal of Scripture, and would make no sense.

This may sound Nestorian, but there are certain things which can be said of one nature which cannot be said of the other. The communicatio idiomatum does not mean that what can be said of one nature can be said of the other. It means that whatever can be said of one nature can be spoken of as applying to the whole of Christís person. For example, we wouldnít say that the divine nature of Christ died on the cross. God did not die, but the humanity which God assumed died. If this sounds Nestorian, then Trinitarians and Oneness alike are Nestorians, for all confess this to be true. Likewise, the Scripture says that God cannot be tempted, yet Jesus was tempted. If we apply the communicatio idiomatum to mean that whatever can be said of one nature can be said of the other, then whether we believe Jesusí divine nature to be the Fatherís or "God the Sonís," we have God being tempted. What we say is that Jesus, the Son of God, was tempted. How exactly this could be without splitting up the union of the two natures, I cannot adequately explain, but I believe we must conclude that it was because of Jesusí humanity, and not His deity, that Jesus prayed. We do not have His divine nature praying to the Father, which would be the same divine person, but we have a human being, who does not exercise the prerogatives of deity, but is willingly-limited to the prerogatives shared by all of humanity, relying on the Spirit of God for His every word and miracle, and thus praying to the Source of His human strength. In such a capacity Jesus could pray to the Father. It was only in His humanity that He could be subordinate to the Father, and thus could pray, or have need of prayer. I cannot explain it. Chalcedon cannot explain it. This is where our understanding breaks down. Chalcedon could not pinpoint the truth, it could only draw a box around it by saying what cannot be true, and let the truth lie somewhere inside the box. I am doing just that. I am asserting what is true, what cannot be true, and leaving the rest to the box of mystery.

Concerning your second question, I do not see a problem with saying that God was in Jesus, because Jesus said so Himself on numerous occasions (John 10:38; 14:10-11; 17:21). Truly the Father was in Jesus. The Scripture even says that "God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself" (II Corinthians 5:19). The problem I see with the statement is not with the statement itself, but with the common misunderstanding of the statement. When taken too literally, to the exclusion of other pertinent verses, it can produce a Nestorian understanding of Christ where someone sees the deity in Christ as only occupying "space" in the man Jesus, but no essential unity between Jesusí humanity and deity. The Scripture balances statements such as these with the teaching that the logos actually became flesh.

When the Scripture speaks of the God the Father as being in Christ, it is not attempting to explain any hypostatic union between Christís two natures. The Bible typically does not explain Christ in terms like theseóterms and concepts which were fought over at Chalcedon. The Bible emphasizes Christís work more so than it does His person, especially the metaphysical realities of His person. This does not make a Chalcedonian Christology anti-Biblical or irrelevant. It is necessary that we understand the incarnation in such terms so that we can maintain the Biblical teaching on Christís work. It is logically necessary because one can only do what they are. Ability flows from identity. Someone cannot fix a car unless they are a mechanic. Someone cannot fly a plane unless they are a pilot. If Christ was not fully God and fully man, He could not do what He did to save us. The church fathers understood this, and that is why they attacked the aberrant views of Christís Person. The caution against the statement that "God is in Christ" is not a Biblical one, but a Chalcedonian caution, guarding the Biblical statement against a wrong interpretation. It is not a matter of denying the Biblical statements, but a matter of guarding them against misunderstanding by treating them as the totality of the truth, to the exclusion of other verses, and logical necessities that the Biblical concept of an incarnation of God produces.


Related Articles:

A Oneness View of Jesus' Prayers
Jesus' Prayers: It Doesn't Take Two Persons to Tango
Jesus' Prayers
Avoiding the Achilles Heels of Trinitarianism, Modalistic Monarchianism, and Nestorianism: The Acknowledgement and Proper Placement of the Distinction Between Father and Son
The Dual Nature of Christ

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