According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

God's Incarnation into the World - Before, During, and After Jesus




A Christmas message.

During this time of the season Christians often think of Jesus as the incarnation of God come into this world to affect God's plan of salvation... which is true. But by saying this we should be careful not to think God was in any way uninvolved with the world before this time. Or that He was not in someway "incarnate" in both man and creation before this time - if by "incarnate" we mean God's presence was, in some way, always actively involved with redeeming both the world and creation before the advent of Christ. Usually, the church uses the term "incarnate" to refer to God's "special incarnation, or presence, or infilling, in Jesus - become "God amongst us" - as different from God's past "incarnations" in the world.

We can say this when observing in the bible this same idea when God used men and women, angels, and creative events in the Old Testament to affect His divine will by His presence in a way different from His other kinds of "presences" borne within the world. These might be considered instances of a "special incarnation" too - or "special infilling of His Spirit" - upon people and objects. However, before rushing off to declare all things profane but some things holy, let us step back once again to consider the psalmist and prophetic messages of how God becomes "incarnate" in all men and women - even creation - and on all occasions when partnering with His obedient creation. It is how God translates His divine presence into the world from time immemorial to this present time. In this way, all the world may be considered holy, or all activity made holy, though sin can profane this presence of God in mankind and creation.

By thinking in this way we would be broadening the idea of God's "incarnation into the world" not simply through a one time act in Christ Jesus at the time of His conception and birth but continually through the eons of the world both now and in the past and forward into the future. The world has never known a time when God has ceased to be present in its history. As such, perhaps we might speak of this act of God as His "general incarnation" or "presence" in the world as versus His "special incarnation" through Christ or other biblical events, acts or people. A divine incarnation familiar in recall to His past infillings of the Spirit upon prophets, priests, and kings but especially in Christ Jesus as the divine God made flesh within this sinful world.


By saying this we can then say that God has never been absent from His creation from the very first day of its creation until now. Who has always been actively involved with creation's salvation, reclamation, rebirth, regeneration, and transformation unto the fellowship of His love, mercy, forgiveness, and hope. This process is then especially culminated through Jesus Christ born as "God-Immanuel" (God with us) to complete the process of salvation of God through the atonement of His divine Self.

Such a divine atonement had foreshadowings in the past when displayed in God's servants both then and now. But it is in Jesus that God's atonement for the world is made complete and efficacious (meaning, a provision or remedy to an unsolvable problem). Jesus is God's personal satisfaction that salvation has come, is here, and is in process of always becoming. That it will never go away, will ever be a divine force fully activated into this world, and will make whole a broken, sinful creation. 


Which, in hindsight, is really what God has been doing through the Old Testament up until of His full presence in Jesus, who was-and-is wholly man and wholly God undivided (cf. hupostasis). By the witness of the biblical record, at every instance of failure by God's covenanted people it was God Himself who "solved" or "redeemed" His people not based upon judgment and wrath - which events Christians have interpreted as the failings of Israel but are more the evidences of man's (our) inability to be sinless, perfect, or righteous. As such, the only sacrifice - or restitution - for our failings (negatively viewed) or inabilities (positively viewed) has ever-and-always been God Himself.

By examples, this can be seen in the Abrahamic Covenant when God divided the sacrifice by His own hand as there was no other hand which could make sacrifice for man's sin; or in the Mosaic Covenant when kingdom restoration could only come by God's grace and mercy rather than through the obedience of His covenanted people who continually broke His covenant; or in the Davidic covenant when very few Israelite-Judean kings measured up to God's goodness and holiness (out of 42 kings 8 were good, 3 were better than good - David was one, and 1 best - Josiah). All of which eventuated into the need for a New Covenant binding up all previous biblical covenants of God unto Himself through the personage, ministry, and passion of Christ Jesus. This is what made Jesus especially special - as one who only in Himself could effect the binding and healing of all past covenants through Himself alone. And why? Because He was the very God who could unbreak that which was broken. There was none other - or no other means - which could unbreak what was broken but upon His divine personage.


This then is the wonder of the Christmas season. Not that God was absent in the world but was ever fully involved with a willful world unable to stay its course in God's love but for God's personal presence and sacrifice in its life every step of the way culminating and continuing through the incarnation of God in Christ Jesus. This is the good news of Christmas that God came into the world through one man to save the world from its failings that it might find a fullness of fellowship reflective of the plans and purposes of a Sovereign God in love with His creation and unwilling to forsake or abandon it.

And it is a Christmas message for ourselves as well to be inspired to be/come God's incarnations of His divine Self into a world broken by sin and thus suffering from sin's affects. It is a true statement to say "God is present in His creation." He has always been present in His creation. He has moved it, infilled it, partnered with it, directed it with willing cooperation, and so on... but God has never been absent from creation as its Creator.

In effect, God has always been in the process of incarnating His presence amongst us - but especially in His Own Personage through Christ Jesus who was made the fullness of God's efficacious New Covenant amongst men through whom salvation has come, will always be present, and cannot be broken even by our sin. The promise of God to redeem the world has been wholly enforced with the restitution of Christ Jesus, God made flesh. It is God's covenant of salvation to man that mediates for our sin, covers our sin, pays the penalty of our sin, and brings fullness of divine fellowship with our Creator-Redeemer.


And finally, within us, within His church, God's incarnation may come again and again and again as we, His (re/newed) covenanted people, allow God's divine incarnation be reflected through us by the movement of His Spirit through us making whole a broken world. We, as Christians, are the "Jesus's" or "Christ's" to this world. Not by war, anger, wrath, intolerance, sexism, discrimination, hate, injustice, or disfavor. But in all the ways which Jesus came to disrupt the sin and breakage of this world that it might be made whole again through love, mercy, forgiveness and hope. This then is the Christmas message we, the church of God, His covenanted people, must bear, share, and be/come. There can be no other message than that we "bear Jesus' name" to all when we bear God's love and mercy as His "especial incarnations."

Peace,

R.E. Slater
December 12, 2017


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