On Incarnation

In Incarnation vs. the Cross Will picked followed on from my thought "The Christocentrism has been redefined (no incarnation, just the cross)" in 42: Unattractive Restoration Confusion. He kindly said "This isn’t about his post, really.  I agree with most everything he says in it."

However, Will does "start wondering about how much emphasis can we put on the incarnation, especially with regard to the cross."

Some preliminary thoughts:

  • Obviously and simplistically the Resurrection depends on the Cross and the Cross depends on the Incarnation.
  • The fact of Incarnation is not just necessary for the Cross and Resurrection. It is vital to them having any meaning. Unless Jesus is fully human (fully incarnate) both the cross and the resurrection are meaningless (clearly understood at the time of the creeds which emphasise the humanity of Jesus).

Again simplistically:

  • If hope for eternal life and our own resurrection comes from Resurrection.
  • If reconciliation with God (salvation) comes through the Cross.

Then the importance of the Incarnation relates to our discipleship. Neither the resurrection, nor the cross give us a model for how we live (well apart from the obvious – sacrifice for others and an eternal perspective).

The incarnation is what leads to the life and teaching of Jesus. It is the life and teaching of Jesus that is the model for our own discipleship. We would not have that without the incarnation.

From bits and pieces from a variety of sources (taught, read, discussed and reflected) I understand that many believe or suspect that Paul did not have access to or knowledge of much of the life of Jesus. That was not so critical with his (especially initial) expectation of an imminent return of Jesus.

I also believe Paul’s teaching evolved towards a more extended wait for the return of Jesus, however, I do not believe he expected it to be anything like 2,000 years.

So me that length of time does imply that while still believing that Jesus will return we should give discipleship during this life a greater emphasis.

It seems that the early church certainly found the incarnation and its implication for discipleship very important, hence the central value of sharing the teaching/stories/life of Jesus and then the gospels. Plus through the process to catechise (teach) new converts with the ongoing expectation of lifestyle transformation before becoming part of the Church.

My belief is that during Christendom discipleship was downplayed. That was a result of a model that understood membership of the Church to be defined by the boundaries of the state, with that inevitably came a large percentage of nominal Christians and nominal discipleship. There was also a loss/downplay of the teaching of Jesus as that challenged the political power structures (eg use of violence).

In a post-christendom world we are free to restore discipleship and therefore the incarnation to where they should be. In no way does this mean losing the value of the Cross or the Resurrection, but it does mean that we should see a return to more disciplined discipleship.

One thought on “On Incarnation

  1. Will Grady

    Hi Dave, and thanks for the nod. Your post here is well put, and again I don’t disagree! Perhaps it is just in emphasis, but I am even rethinking this. I don’t doubt the importance of the incarnation. I am just thinking that Paul seemed to be able to say all that he did without explicitly coming out with the full doctrine of the incarnation that we have.
    I like how you have put the doctrine of the incarnation with discipleship (though I would connect it with the cross/resurrection, also – not that you haven’t!). I think this is where you were right in your criticism of evangelical’s lack of emphasis on it. Growing up, it was something we ‘just believed’.


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