1. Every so often I hear a pastor or even a theologian say something like, "God knows what it's like to lose a son". That's supposed to be comforting in the face of tragedy.
I bite my tongue when I hear statements like that because I think it reflects a flawed understanding of the Incarnation. The implication is that due to the hypostatic union, the divine nature experiences what the human nature experiences. As a result, the Incarnation is a learning experience for God.
But in reality, the Father didn't "lose" his Son. The Son qua Son didn't die. The Son was never inaccessible to the Father.
Likewise, the human nature doesn't bleed into the divine nature.
2. In addition, there are various mental states that God can't have. Due to divine invulnerability, God can't experience fear or longing.
3. That said, can God experience simulated sensations? For instance, I remember what different foods taste like. I can mentally summon the flavor of some foods. I can imagine tasting steak, lobster, pizza, pasta, chocolate ice cream, spare ribs, &c. It isn't as vivid as actually tasting food, but it's similar, if fainter.
That's not the physical sensation of taste, but a mental simulation.
Likewise, I remember what my favorite singers sound like. I can hear the timber of their voice in my mind. Same thing with actors like Gregory Peck, Johnny Cash, and James Early Jones. That's not the physical sensation of hearing a recording of them, but a mental simulation.
I can visualize colors. That's different from perceiving a colored object with my eyes. When I visualize colors, there's no external stimulus.
I can remember/imagine textures. Or a rose scent.
I can remember what it feels like to be thirsty. Or have cold feet. Not as vivid as the physical sensation, but similar, if fainter.
Assuming that simulated mental sensations are immaterial, that raises the question of whether God can experience simulated sensations.
4. One other illustration: although it's been a long time since I had this dream, on occasion I've dreamt about jumping off a cliff. A fun part of dreaming is that you can get away with some activities that would kill you in real life. Jumping off a cliff in a dream is exhilarating.
However, when I've dreamt about it, it isn't painless. When I hit the ground, it's a hard landing, and it hurts the soles of my feet when they smack the ground after the long drop, even though I'm just dreaming. It's not excruciating pain. Rather, it's like the sensation of jumping from a 10-15 foot wall onto concrete. (Not that I've every done that, exactly.)
If it's possible to experience simulated pain, if simulated pain is mental (i.e. immaterial), then is it theoretically possible for God to experience what physical pain feels like?
Nobody can inflict that on God, but can he voluntarily experience simulated pain? If so, can God know what it feels like to be crucified?