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Theology > Jesus > Incarnation > Variant Consideration


Without denying the established doctrine of the two natures united in the single person of Jesus, is it feasible to suggest that perhaps there is a more Biblical way of reflecting on the mystery of Jesus?

Usually the presentation of the Incarnation focuses on the issue of the natures of Christ, and the relationship of the natures to the person; therefore, the emphasis is on a discussion of abstract concepts, that while the concepts may be true, the discussion itself does not reflect the flavor of the Biblical material.

Should not the focus of the investigation be on the relationship of Jesus to God, that is, the study should be on what does Jesus teach us about God? Was the purpose to reveal to man the manner in which He was like God, or to reveal to man what God was like?

The import then is not who or what was Jesus, but what is it that Jesus, the person, reveals to us concerning God.

Is the Incarnation to be understood from the perspective of ontological and metaphysical concepts or understood in terms of the relational, the relationship within the Godhead and the relationship between God and man?

Consider the question of worship and service. Is speaking of the love of God the Father, the passion of His Son, and the work of the Spirit sufficient for adoration and charity? Or do discussions of substance, essence, hypostasis, natures, and person enhance the thought and activity of the Christian life?

And it should be pointed out that such technical precision is missing in the New Testament, where the priority is trusting God and His Son and living for the same. Do I worship the God of the psalmist and Isaiah who is also the God of the Lord Jesus, or do I worship the “one substance who is manifest in three persons?”

Is more precision needed in order to clarify teaching and define doctrine?

A related consideration, if even the technical discussion is appropriate, is the question of what is the controlling thought regarding God. Is it His Trinitarian nature, is it His holiness, is it His love, or is it His Sovereignty? As indicated, perhaps the question is improper and irreverent because it explicitly or implicitly establishes some sort of priority with regards to describing or defining God—and this in itself could be judged heresy. Of course, a defense could be made for either of the four suggestions; and, depending on the one chosen, the implications of the chosen concept lead to variant thoughts.

It may truly be said that the members of the primitive Christian fellowship were in the habit of regarding God in three different lights—first, in His transcendent Being as inscrutably above the temporal evolution of the universe; second, as made manifest to them in the love and life and death  of Christ; and third, as present in some sort in their own hearts and spirits. And it may be said with equal certainty of truth that these three lights melt in the end into one light—“the light,” as St Paul calls it, “Of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ” which “hath shined in our hearts.” That is to say, they looked upon the life of their Christian fellowship as being but a continuation of the life of Christ, and they looked upon the life of Christ as being but the expression under human and temporal limitations of the life of God. “Your life,” says St. Paul in another characteristic passage, “is hid with Christ in God.” There you have, in their clear and proper relationship, all three of the terms which were afterwards built into the doctrine of the Trinity (J. Baillie, The Place of Jesus Christ, 188-189).

Other passages in the NT reflect the Trinitarian perspective; following is a selection of them, but note that in none of them do the writers present an involved analysis of the Trinity:

Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 28:19);

And immediately, coming up from the water, He saw the heavens parting and the Spirit descending upon Him like a dove. Then a voice came from heaven, “You are My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased” (Mk. 1:10-11);

But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send from the Father, the Spirit of Truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me (Jo. 15:26);

And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin . . . I go to My Father and you see Me no more (Jo. 16:8-9);

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all (2 Cor. 13:14);

Peter . . . to the pilgrims . . . elect according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience and sprinkling of the blood of Jesus Christ (I Pet. 1:1-2);

Grace to you and peace from Him who is and who was and who is to come, and from the seven Spirits who are before His throne, and from Jesus Christ, the faithful Witness, the First-born from the dead, and the Ruler over the kings of the earth (Rev. 1:4-5).

Whether the issue is the Trinity or the Incarnation, the point is that the vibrant and living testimony of the Scriptures regarding these matters has been lost as the interpretation of them has evolved through years of theological reflection on the part of the church into concrete doctrinal expressions and dogmatic formulations. And the result has been twofold: one, the life of the writings of the NT has been replaced with lifeless theological statements; and two, the theological statements have become a sort of legalistic guide for evaluating those who claim to be followers of Christ but do not describe or define the relationship in terms that we approve.

I think we shall all agree that for the practice of piety and the proper worship of God we need no more of the doctrine of the Trinity than there is in the New Testament (J. Baillie, The Place of Jesus Christ, 191).

It is true that Jesus of Nazareth is one of our human selves, and it is true that in Him we nevertheless find the Eternal God plainly revealed and present; yet we cannot think it to follow from this that there must therefore have been some kind of doubleness in what we might call His mental make-up or psychical constitution, or that, as they said, in His single personality there coexisted, without division or separation yet also with confusion or permutation, a nature as God and a nature as man (J. Baillie, The Place of Jesus Christ, 126).

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