In a discussion about the metaphysical status of race (of all things) on my personal blog, Econ Grad Stud said something that led to a question that I’ve thought about before but having really arrived at anything definitive about. Assume an atemporal view of God and an orthodox position on the Trinity and the Incarnation. Answer the following questions:
1. Did Christ become human?
2. If so, was there a time when Christ was merely divine (and thus not human)?
3. In what sense, if any is Christ atemporal?
I’m not sure what I think of this, but I’ll try out a toy theory, which does have some argumentative support.
My understanding is that the orthodox view says yes to question 1. Christ did become human. That seems to follow from Philippians 2 anyway, but I think it's explicit in tradition, isn't it? Maybe I'm wrong here, though. I think it does follow that there was a time when it would have been correct to say that Christ was merely divine and thus not human. But I'm just going by what I think an orthodox view requires. If I'm wrong on this, maybe more possibilities open up for possible views.
What about question 3, then? That's where it gets tricky. If he is not atemporal in any sense, how can he have the divine nature? If he is purely temporal at some time, how can he have the divine nature? Yet if he is not temporal in any sense, how could he be human in any sense? So I think it must be that he is somehow temporal in some way and atemporal in another way. In what ways, though?
Here is the view I've been toying around with. Perhaps his divine nature is atemporal but his human nature is temporal and came into existence as of his conception within Mary. Any questions about his temporality or atemporality have to be asked at a time or asked about timeless propositions. At a time before his conception, it is correct to say that he is divine and incorrect to say that he is human. It is correct to say that he is atemporal (for the same reason's it's right to say God is).
At a time after his conception during his earthly ministry it is correct to say that he is temporal. It is incorrect to say that he is atemporal if that means that he is not temporal. But it is correct to say that he's eternal even if that means that he exists outside time, since he exists both in time and outside time, and he has a temporal nature and an atemporal nature.
It's less clear to me what to say on this view about any time after the ascension. I would guess that the best thing to say is that he remains in time because he continues to have a human nature. This means you can't think of his going to be with the Father as going to be outside time. But you couldn't think that anyway, since a temporal being can't become atemporal. An atemporal being can't have a beginning. His atemporal existence is the same no matter what time you speak of it.
The alternative seems to be that Christ's temporal existence only occurs during a certain time occurs during a certain time and then jumps to a later time (the new heavens and earth at his return). Something like this might make some sense philosophically, but I think it has the implication that right now Christ isn't human, and I think that amounts to heresy. So I don't think it's available for a theologically orthodox divine atemporalist. So I conclude that (given what I've said so far) the only available view is that Christ remains temporal after the ascension, and whatever going to be with the Father means it can't mean becoming atemporal.
Are there any views that I haven't considered? Am I correct in what I've assumed orthodox theology requires? I'm not going to live and die by any of this, but it's a fascinating question for me, and I don't think I can identify any views consistent with orthodoxy besides this one. It's thus my working view for the moment.