Re-claiming The Incarnation Part 3 07-05-2017

Some recent theologians have suggested the incarnation is a metaphor.[1] This is completely out of step with generations of Christian witnesses beginning with the apostles. The incarnation is no metaphor. The incarnation is the jugular vein of Christian faith. Reducing the incarnation to metaphor squashes Christianity’s power. Tens of thousands of apostles and martyrs wouldn’t have risked everything and died for a metaphor.

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Many broadminded theologians reduce Jesus to the status of another prophet. For them the Word has no longer become human, but has merely inhabited a human. Cyril of Alexandria dealt with this very same idea in the fifth century. Cyril’s response to the claim God “dwelled” in Jesus was, “If he became a worker of wonderful signs because the Word was within him, are they not simply saying that he was one of the holy prophets?”[2]

I’ve heard new age Christians say we can become like Jesus. This may be true to a degree, but no matter how blessed we are and no matter how much spiritual practice we do, people will never heal their terminal diseases by touching the hem of our garments (Luke 8:44, Matthew 14:36). The sheer power Jesus radiated is unique to the incarnation. For Christians, Jesus is the only person who could say to God “I am that.” For the rest of us, the spiritual journey is characterized by ever deepening “relationship.”

The emphasis on Jesus’ humanity and denial of Jesus’ full Divinity permeates liberal churches and obliterates Christianity’s power.[3] Author Houston Smith warns, “Liberal churches, for their part, are digging their own graves, for without a robust, emphatically theistic world-view to work within (incarnation), they have nothing to offer their members except rallying cries to be good.”[4]

People yearn for transcendence and seek it in religion. The incarnation is Christianity’s central transendent mystery. 

[1] Some recent interpreters of Christianity, such as Marcus Borg, go as far as to say that Jesus’ designation as son of God was not remarkable—that a number of Jewish healers were referred to as sons of God. This signifies that Jesus is just another Jewish mystic or another prophet like the others. But in actuality the Greek term huios theou, which applied to “sons of God” in the plural ordinary sense, was only used in reference to Jesus three times in the Gospels (Mark 1:1, 15:39, and Romans 1:4). Usually Jesus is described as ho huios tou theou: not just a “son of God,” but “the son of God.” So Borg and others navigate a slippery slope, which doesn’t reflect authentic incarnational Christianity. And the Eastern Church knows the incarnation is where the power is. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have fought over it so vehemently, sustaining tremendous losses to preserve its pure essence: Miaphysite (The Jesus Paradox). See Borg, The Heart of Christianity, 88.

[2] Cyril, The Unity of Christ, 97.

[3] Another ancient theologian, Arius, taught “once Christ was not,” meaning that Jesus’ nature was not eternal—that Jesus was essentially human. This was considered heretical by the early church, yet many who profess Christianity today maintain this belief. The eternal aspect of Jesus that existed before the historic incarnation and after the incarnation, is The Word (Logos in Greek). See glossary.

[4] Smith, The Soul of Christianityxx.

David Frenette’s book The Path of Centering Prayer reenergized the Centering Prayer tradition with its fresh insights and teachings.  Centering Prayer Meditations: Effortless Contemplation to Deepen Your Experience of God is a wonderful companion audio program  created to be equally rewarding as a stand-alone guide – gives listeners an immersive resource to learn contemplative prayer, step by step and in the moment. With clarity and compassionate presence, Frenette explains the essential principles of this contemplative practice for both new and seasoned practitioners, and then guides us experientially through core prayers and meditations.

How do we know that Jesus was actually raised from the dead in bodily form? This course with Prof. N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God, examines the extraordinary claim that Jesus of Nazareth was raised from the dead in a bodily fashion to appear in person to people after his cruel death, crucifixion, and entombment.

Check out Simply Good News by New Testament scholar and author N. T. Wright.  It is based upon his book Simply Good News.  You will instantly get into the heart of the idea of ‘good news’ as it was understood by the 1st Century writers of the New Testament.  It works well for group studies.   

Prepare to be immersed in the 1st Century A.D. context of the life, work, teachings, and actions of Jesus.  Check out Simply Jesus by N. T. Wright. Enjoy an article Rich wrote about one of the lectures on the Beatitudes.