Thursday, January 5, 2012

More thoughts on the incarnation

I recently stumbled across the quotation I had such difficulty placing in my earlier post.  And no wonder, for it's not a Lewis quote at all, but an observation from J.I. Packer's excellent book Knowing God.  As you might expect, he says it much better than I could.
[T]he real difficulty, the supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us, [...] lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of Incarnation. The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man [...], and that he took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as he was human.

[...] It is here, in the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie. [...] The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the Incarnation.

This is the real stumbling block in Christianity. It is here that Jews, Muslims, Unitarians, Jehovah's Witnesses, and many of those who feel the difficulties concerning the virgin birth, the miracles, the atonement and the resurrection have come to grief. [...] But once the Incarnation is grasped as a reality, these other difficulties dissolve.

If Jesus had been no more than a very remarkable, godly man, the difficulties in believing what the New Testament tells us about his life and work would be truly mountainous.  But if Jesus was the same person as the eternal Word, the Father's agent in creation, 'through whom also he made the worlds' (Heb 1:2 RV), it is no wonder if fresh acts of creative power marked his coming into this world, and his life in it, and his exit from it.  It is not strange that he, Author of life, should rise from the dead.  If he was truly God the Son, it is much more startling that he should die than that he should rise again. 

[...] And if the immortal Son of God did really submit to taste death, it is not strange that such a death should have saving significance for a doomed race.  Once we grant that Jesus was divine, it becomes unreasonable to find difficulty in any of this; it is all of a piece and hangs together completely.  The Incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the New Testament contains.
~J.I. Packer, in "God Incarnate", from Knowing God

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