Thoughts on Incarnation

Discussion in 'Christianity' started by Thomas, May 12, 2021.

  1. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    A question was raised elsewhere regarding the idea of 'the Incarnation' in Christianity and its appearance in Christian teaching.

    The idea is of course explicit in John: "And the word was made flesh" (1:14), but it's worth noting it is intimated in the Synoptic Gospels.

    Mark says: "The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (1:1). In the genealogy of Jesus, Matthew begins "Abraham begot Isaac" (1:2) and then forty more 'begots' to "And Jacob begot Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus, who is called Christ" (1:16) – the point being that Joseph did not begat Jesus, rather Jesus was begotten of the Holy Spirit (v20) and that His name would be Emmanuel – 'God with us' (v23). Luke, on the other hand, goes the other way, as it were, counting back from Jesus to Adam, but begins: "And Jesus ... being (as it was supposed) the son of Joseph" (3:23), 'supposed', but actually the Son of God, Luke presumed by tradition to have had the story from Mary herself.

    But before the Synoptics were written, we have Paul.

    In his Letter to the Romans: "God sending his own Son, in the likeness of sinful flesh and of sin" (8:3). His own Son (ton heautou), not a son by adoption, and who existed from eternity. Paul speaks of Christ as ho on epi panton theos, "who is over all things, God blessed for ever" (Romans 9:5).

    This identification of the Christ with JHWH is clear. Paul uses the Septuagint translation of The Lord God as ho kyrios, and makes this title distinctive of Jesus. In Colossians (probably not Paul, but containing a very early hymn) "for in him (Jesus) dwelleth the fulness of the Godhead (pleroma tes theotetos) corporeally" (2:9). "For in Him (Jesus) were all things created in heaven and on earth ... all things were created by Him and for Him" (2:18-19).

    In Galatians: "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (4:4-5, written c45-55AD)

    Romans was written written c50-60AD, and then later: "But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." (Philippians 2:7-8 written 62AD).

    Just some thoughts ...
     
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  2. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Save Our Souls

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    It is John who explicitly talks about "a begotten Son", and Jesus is God.
    Son of God does not necessarily mean some mysterious kind of relation of God.

    The OT uses it metaphorically, for example, to mean a person close to God [ special person ]
    There are many Christians who understand this, and don't believe Jesus is God.
     
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  3. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    The Christ is the Son of God, begotten before time began. God isn't actually a Father and the Christ is not actually really a Son. Nor is the Holy Spirit a different essence than the Father.

    Your problem is getting mixed up with the actual literal words and the requirements of your own scriptural religion.

    Others have no obligation or allegiance to the limitations placed by your own chosen scripture and religion. It is irrelevant
     
    Last edited: May 12, 2021
  4. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    Now you start trying to get into actual historical evidence. Every time you take the evidence that suits you and reject that which does not. And everytime you get your ass handed to you on a plate. In the end all you have is your own chosen belief in your own scripture as evidence of anything
     
  5. RJM

    RJM God Feeds the Ravens Admin

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    There are lots of religious people who just get on with it; and then there are those who devote their lives to attacking another religion, not their own -- often with thin knowledge of the actual scripture and belief
     
  6. Tone Bristow-Stagg

    Tone Bristow-Stagg Well-Known Member

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    The Bab and Baha'u'llah have now given great detail on this topic, so if one chooses to see that the Bab and Baha'u'llah are also from God, then many more answers can be found. It is all well above my pay grade, but I have tried to understand what has been offered in all scriptures, including the Bible.

    There is a Tablet, called the "Tablet of the Universe", written by the Abdul'baha (the Son of Baha'u'llah) that tells of how creation unfolded in the Spiritual world and from that Tablet we have beed told we can meditate as to how the material world unfolded.

    If you wish to read it, there is a Provisional translation here.


    So from my understanding God is unknowable and does not descend into creation as that would be imperfection.

    Creation is the joining together of the Lertters B and E and together they constitute the word “Be”, which “means the creative Power of God Who through His command causes all things to come into being” and “the power of the Manifestation of God, His great spiritual creative force”.

    So Jesus was Annointed as Christ, Christ is that Creative Force, the Holy Spirit, given from God, all we can know of God, but not God in essence. Baha'u'llah has explained that the Messengers are the 'Self of God' amongst humanity, given by God as the only path to walk, the only way to turn to find God.

    That is how Jesus as Christ says I am the First and the Last, the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End. It is not the flesh that is of God, the Flesh is created of Christ, Christ is created of God. Which explains John: "And the word was made flesh" (1:14),

    These are just a few thoughts one can choose to consider in the Ocean of God's Word, that has a myriad of Pearls of great price.

    Regards Tony
     
  7. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Save Our Souls

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    Not to me it isn't.
    For me, Almighty God is the Father.
    ..and Jesus is the Son .. but not God.
    ..just as Isaac Newton concluded. I know you don't give a stuff what he thought .. or what I think.
    You probably don't give a stuff what Einstein thought either ;)
     
  8. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Save Our Souls

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    In an interview published in George Sylvester Viereck's book Glimpses of the Great (1930), Einstein responded to a question about whether or not he defined himself as a pantheist. He explained:

    Your question is the most difficult in the world. It is not a question I can answer simply with yes or no. I am not an Atheist. I do not know if I can define myself as a Pantheist. The problem involved is too vast for our limited minds. May I not reply with a parable? The human mind, no matter how highly trained, cannot grasp the universe.

    We are in the position of a little child, entering a huge library whose walls are covered to the ceiling with books in many different tongues. The child knows that someone must have written those books. It does not know who or how. It does not understand the languages in which they are written. The child notes a definite plan in the arrangement of the books, a mysterious order, which it does not comprehend, but only dimly suspects.

    That, it seems to me, is the attitude of the human mind, even the greatest and most cultured, toward God. We see a universe marvelously arranged, obeying certain laws, but we understand the laws only dimly. Our limited minds cannot grasp the mysterious force that sways the constellations. I am fascinated by Spinoza's Pantheism. I admire even more his contributions to modern thought. Spinoza is the greatest of modern philosophers, because he is the first philosopher who deals with the soul and the body as one, not as two separate things.


    Interestingly, Einstein was raised by secular Jewish parents, and attended a local Catholic public elementary school in Munich, Germany.

    ..and here's one for @Cino ..

    Einstein characterized himself as "devoutly religious" in the following sense, "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mystical. It is the power of all true art and science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness. In this sense, and in this sense only, I belong to the rank of devoutly religious men." :)
     
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  9. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Save Our Souls

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    Is Jesus God incarnate?
    I ask again .. does it affect Almighty God, what we believe about Him?

    No, of course not..
     
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  10. Cino

    Cino Big Love! (Atheist mystic) Admin

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    I agree about that side of the matter.

    I often wonder how it affects this side, us, humanity, what we believe about God. Does it make us think and speak and act in ways that make a positive difference to us, our loved ones, and our communities? That's a standard I can well imagine us as human beings to pragmatically and realistically embody. If one believes in God, then it might be seen as a human incarnation of a divine quality, if one likes that thought; remembering God, emulating Christ, Healing the World, Embodying the Bodhisattva, fulfilling Dharma, that kind of thing. If one doesn't believe, there are endless possibilities for exploring and developing our human qualities of compassion, solidarity, and so on.

    The flesh is already here, and we have a say in what will become flesh.

    My thoughts on the Incarnation.

    (And thanks for the Einstein quote, @muhammad_isa. It's one of my favorites.)
     
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  11. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    This is a common argument, but it assumes likeness to infer sameness, which is a logical fallacy:
    1: 'The Son of God' is used in Hebrew Scripture metaphorically.
    2: Jesus refers to Himself as 'The Son of God',
    3: Therefore, Jesus is speaking metaphorically.

    Actually, it's not proven. Statement 3 is not necessarily a metaphor simply because it reads like A.
    Because He uses the same phrase, that does not preclude Him from being the actual Son of God, in the sense of an incarnate divinity.
     
  12. muhammad_isa

    muhammad_isa Save Our Souls

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    I don't know .. what would it actually mean?
    Is Almighty God "a soul" ? Is Jesus a man with God's "soul" ?
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    The Abrahamics affirm that God transcends all understanding, but that does not mean God is unknowable in an absolute sense; were that so, then religion as such would be a fruitless if not pointless endeavour.

    Rather, God has made Himself known, and in that sense, it is a 'descent' into creation.

    Furthermore, in Judaism and Christianity at least, God has 'acted' in creation.

    In Christianity we hold God as Immanent as well as Transcendent.

    According to Hebrew and Christian speculation, that is not the case.

    Again, Christianity holds otherwise.
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    It's not what we believe about Him, but about us.

    God came to man for our sake, not His.
     
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  15. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    It gives shape, for sure ... but it is a big point.

    The idea that we are somehow deficient in our humanity if we do not believe; that we lack moral direction, for example, or empathy or compassion is patently wrong. The Golden Rule speaks to that.

    And some could argue, with all good reason, that the observation of the Golden Rule without the 'fear of God' (punishment/reward), for no other reason than it is simply the right things to do, that speaks of a certain nobility of nature and a true humanism if not humanity.

    The Incarnation in Christian terms speaks not only of a redemptive act in response to the Fall; in Christ we are called to a higher life than was enjoyed even by Adam and Eve in the Garden before their lapse. As intimated to @muhammad_isa above, it's not about God, it's about us and a certain eschatology – the doctrine of theosis (divinisation).

    As I understand it:
    1 – The idea of Divine Union must necessarily exist in principle, within the Godhead, before it can exist as a possibility of human realisation.
    2 – If it is to be more than an abstract principle or goal of the human state, it must be realised, actualised, to be real, and not something notional.
    3 – Only God can actualise this, as human nature cannot transcend itself.

    Thus, for the idea of Divine Union to be, it must be instituted by God, from the top down, as it were, and that is what the Incarnation means.

    This was fundamental to Christian speculation as to the point of the Incarnation:
    Irenaeus of Lyon (c130-200)
    "The Word of God, our Lord Jesus Christ, who ... become what we are, that He might bring us to be even what He is Himself."
    "For it was necessary, at first, that nature should be exhibited; then, after that, that what was mortal should be conquered and swallowed up by immortality, and the corruptible by incorruptibility, and that man should be made after the image and likeness of God."

    We have similar statements by Clement of Alexandria (c150-215):
    "The Word of God became man, that thou mayest learn from man how man may become God."
    "For if one knows himself, he will know God; and knowing God, he will be made like God"

    Justin Martyr (c100-165), Theophilus of Antioch (c120-190), Hippolytus of Rome (c170-235), Athanasius of Alexandria (c296-373):
    "Therefore He was not man, and then became God, but He was God, and then became man, and that to deify us"
    "... for as the Lord, putting on the body, became man, so we men are deified by the Word as being taken to Him through His flesh."
    "For He was made man that we might be made God."

    And so on through Gregory of Nyssa (c335-395), Augustine of Hippo (c354-430), Maximus the Confessor (c580-662):
    "Nothing in theosis is the product of human nature, for nature cannot comprehend God. It is only the mercy of God that has the capacity to endow theosis unto the existing... In theosis, man (the image of God) becomes likened to God, he rejoices in all the plenitude that does not belong to him by nature, because the grace of the Spirit triumphs within him, and because God acts in him."

    And on and on ... I only make multiple reference to demonstrate that this was not the notion of a single individual, but a common understanding in the Church from the very earliest of days ... all the above citations are, of course, underwritten by Scripture as they understood it.
     
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  16. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Not quite ...

    God is not a 'soul', the closest we can say in that sense is 'God is a spirit' (John 4:24).

    St Paul said: "For what man knoweth the things of a man, but the spirit of a man that is in him? So the things also that are of God no man knoweth, but the Spirit of God" (Romans 2:29) and again: "Now we have received not the spirit of this world, but the Spirit that is of God; that we may know the things that are given us from God" (1 Corinthians 2:12)

    So I would say God is a spirit in as much as it's in and through the spirit that we know of and know God.

    Regarding the soul of Christ, the Council of Chalcedon declared that when God the Son became a man, He became completely human in nature. Human beings are a composite of body and soul. The body and soul are not two natures, but two components of a single human nature.

    The discussion of soul and spirit then becomes very complex, in that the two are similar, but not quite the same. I'm sure it's the same in Islam, we use the term 'soul' and 'spirit' but their understanding is fluid, and contextual?

    Again, Chalcedon confirmed that the two natures, the one human, the other divine, cohere in the Person of Christ:
    "One and the Same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten; acknowledged in Two Natures unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the difference of the Natures being in no way removed because of the Union, but rather the properties of each Nature being preserved, and (both) concurring into One Person and One Hypostasis"

    (wiki reference here)
     
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  17. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Just wanted to return to this again – very much Plato's dilemma, that God stands apart from creation in His absolute Goodness and Perfection, creation being finite and contingent, provisionally good at best, and susceptible to evil at its worst. Thus God cannot possibly come into direct contact with creation, either because that would risk of His own imperfection, or that His presence would effectively reduce creation to ashes.

    Again this falls under the rule mentioned about with regard to 'The Son of God' – because there are prophets and oracles, Jesus must necessarily be another, whereas such does not necessarily follow, and nor does Christianity accept it.
     
  18. Tone Bristow-Stagg

    Tone Bristow-Stagg Well-Known Member

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    Then a thought to consider, given as questions.

    Is the Sun in a mirror in any way the descent of the Sun into the mirror? and

    Does that make the mirror the Sun?

    Finally, I agree if the mirror acts as per the light within that mirror, then we see a mirror acting as God has so Willed. We might even say the Mirror was the `Self of God`.

    Regards Tony
     
  19. Tone Bristow-Stagg

    Tone Bristow-Stagg Well-Known Member

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    Another thought there is that is why we can not look directly at the Sun, our eyes will be burnt, we need a filter, we need to see a Man like us, but have the ability to accept they are the Light of God.

    Regards Tony
     
  20. Tone Bristow-Stagg

    Tone Bristow-Stagg Well-Known Member

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    Which does not mean Christianities stance is necessarily correct.

    The best reflection is that the Jews still stand strong waiting for the Messiah.

    Yet, Christ has come and great Nations built, Muhammad has come and great Nations Built. The Bab and Baha'u'llah came and that Message has gone global in the blink of an eye.

    So logically many people have got it wrong, which in turn is shown in the Biblical to be a great sign.

    "Many are called few are chosen", "the first become last and the last first".

    Biblically, this is most likely to be the clouds that Christ returns upon, and we know in the material world that clouds prevent the brightness of the Sun shining through to earth, likewise the clouds Christ returns upon are those that prevent the light of God shining upon our hearts.

    As such, can we not conclude that doctrine added to the Bible, could very well be those clouds, given the warning in the Bible about taking such actions of adding to that Word.

    I always like to consider Jesus as Christ knows the beginning and the End, yet here we are somewhere in between offering that a certain Message from God is the last Message for all time.

    So much has been offered from God, why can we not embrace it all as a united whole?

    Regards Tony
     

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