Thursday, December 06, 2007

Fullness of Time

From the Message: Ephesians 1:10 " He set it all out before us in Christ, a long-range plan in which everything would be brought together and summed up in him, everything in deepest heaven, everything on planet earth."

I was never able to grasp the wonder of the incarnation until I was able to step back and view this verse in a new light. The incarnation was no arbitrary throw of the dice. God chose just the right the time to make things right. God let sin run its course, as a disease or a revolution must run its course, so that man would be certain that what he wanted to be- a god - would end in his ruin. To redeem him immediately might have left a "perhaps" to trouble mankind's peace. So we tried this notion of being a god thoroughly and failed miserably, beyond a shadow of a doubt. And when, somewhere in the super-consciousness of man, man realized that all attempts of being god were futile, God appeared to the Jews.

And just as God appeared to Abraham at the right moment, Christ came at the right moment. It changed the world forever. Not only was man no longer an enemy of God, Christ showed us that fishermen, tent-makers, slave, lame, deaf, blind and lepers were equally loved and valued by Him, not just the rich or elite. The Jews were teaching Love your neighbor as your self for a hundred years or so before, but it was the Lord Himself that gave wind to that notion and the world has never been the same.

So what I want to do this season of Advent is something I've wanted to do for a while. Survey the recorded ancient religions, philosophies, and cultures up to the arrival of the Lord. God becoming man is both simultaneously the most ludicrous and most believable idea that mankind has ever heard. No other religion teaches it. No other religious leader claims to have been God Himself while showing no signs of lunacy or evil. We believe that it was not invented, but rather it is inventing us. Just as any truth that has been veiled and then is revealed changes your course of action. The truth re-invents you. It sets you free, as Jesus taught us, and showed us.

I truly believe that all men who hear the nativity story want to believe the incarnation is true because if there is a God, he finally makes sense. Man can no longer ignore, fear, or despise a cold, uncaring God who watches us from afar, who knows nothing of our weakness and shows no compassion.

So I'd like to talk about what led up to that moment, and why the incarnation isn't ludicrous, but the most believable thing, if you believe there is a God.

It is not a blind leap of faith, but a step of faith that makes sense. As much sense as anything if you first believe that God made everything and still holds it together, which is a bigger step in my opinion.

So, it's a big task but it'll be good for me and might interested those of you interested in world religions and of making sense of it all.


Bill Hensley said...

Incarnation is a common idea in world religions, in the sense of a god taking on human form. What is unique about Christ is the purpose of his incarnation. He came, laying aside his glory, to be the atoning sacrifice for the sins of the world. His incarnation and atonement are God's astonishing solution to reconciling his justice and his mercy. In no other way can his justice and his mercy be fully satisfied. If you had given me a million years to ponder the Old Testament I would never have come up with such an ingenious plan.

Seth Ward said...

True, sorry if that came off as such. I should have made the present tense of "teaches" more clear, as in no other major world religion teaches this, (Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism,) Also the modification should have been clearer that, of whatever Pharos or Pagan Corn king in the dead religions that came before, Christ was the only one "without showing sings of lunacy or cruelty." However, it could be said that even though the Pharos and Pagan kings claimed to have been gods, no monotheistic religious leader dared to make such a claim, and certainly not a Jew.

What I'll be trying to show is part of what you are saying: Many of the philosophies and religions at the time were pointing towards such an event. It is no coincidence that Greeks thought the way they thought or the Jews thought the way they thought (seeds of Trinitarian "logos" in Philo), at the time of Christ's birth. The most influential religious philosophies were ripe for the understanding of the Christ event, in EVERY, SINGLE, WAY. Most critically, the Jews and the Greeks. God used both, I would say almost equally. Which is astonishing.

As I have said in the past posts, Mythologies are not necessarily all lies, rather as Tolkien put it to Lewis, putting Lewis on the road to Christianity,

" Myths, far from being lies, were the best way of conveying truths which would otherwise be inexpressible. We have come from God, and inevitably the myths woven by us, though they contain error, will also reflect a splintered fragment of the true light, the eternal truth that is with God. Since we are made in the image of God, and since God is the Creator, part of the imageness of God in us is the gift of creativity. The creation- or more correctly, the sub-creation- of stories or myths is merely a reflection of the image of the Creator in us. The story of Christ was the True Myth, a myth that works in the same way as the others, but a myth that really happened- a myth that existed in the realm of fact as well as in the realm of truth. In the same way that men unraveled the truth through the weaving of story, God revealed the Truth through the weaving of history."

Thanks for the comment! Keep me in line! This is tough one, and probably too big of a task for one fellow, so all and any input is valued and appreciated.

Bill Hensley said...

No need to apologize, Seth. I wasn't really disagreeing with you. It was more like "repeating for emphasis." You were careful to qualify your remarks. I just wanted to amplify the uniqueness of Christ's incarnation.

I understand that the concept of Logos, which John borrowed to help illuminate the incarnation of Christ, already existed in Hellenistic thought. But I had not considered how other pagan influences might have plowed the ground for the incarnation. I can't wait to read more.