A Model Of Jesus Christ’s Two Wills In View Of Theology Proper And Anthropology -- By: John E. McKinley

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 19:1 (Spring 2015)
Article: A Model Of Jesus Christ’s Two Wills In View Of Theology Proper And Anthropology
Author: John E. McKinley

A Model Of Jesus Christ’s Two Wills In View Of Theology Proper And Anthropology

John E. McKinley

John E. McKinley is Associate Professor of Biblical and Theological Studies at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, where he teaches systematic theology. He received his Ph.D. at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of Tempted for Us: Theological Models and the Practical Relevance of Christ’s Impeccability and Temptation (Paternoster, 2009), and a number of articles and essays for various publications including Southern Baptist Journal of Theology.


Among the many sticky questions about the Incarnation, the question of Jesus’ two wills can seem nitpicky and arcane to most Christians. The question seems to be one for the theologians, those who care to parse details that are practically irrelevant to daily life, much like debating how many angels can dance on the head of a pin. Further cause to dismiss consideration is the shadow of political intrigues and failed ecumenical strategies that surrounded the ancient discussion of Christ’s wills in 680-81. Nevertheless, few questions in early theology received such focused attention as this one when the Sixth Ecumenical Council weighed arguments and rendered a verdict at Constantinople in 681. Brilliant theologians of that time understood the great importance to theology that Jesus possesses two wills, one divine and one human, since he is truly God and truly human. All branches of Christianity have embraced this doctrine as important and orthodox theology.

Questions related to the topic of Jesus’ two wills are important for understanding the incarnation and salvation that Jesus accomplished. First, is Jesus fully human like we are? Possession of a created human will seems necessary for true human life, including temptation and obedience for righteousness as a man. This leads to a second question: Was Jesus able to sin when he was tempted? A quick answer is to say no; his divine will overruled his human will so that he could not sin. If that is right, then does Jesus possess a real human will with the capacity of free choice? Further, do free choice and temptation entail the ability to sin? It seems that we must affirm that Jesus possesses a true human will since God cannot be tempted ( Jas 1:13) and Jesus was truly tempted (Heb 4:15). Accordingly, if Jesus truly possesses a human will, then could he disagree with himself (his divine will)?

Against the prospect of a conflict in one person with two wills, some theologians (ancient and contemporary) have sought to gro...

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