18 December 2008

The Incarnation: Blasting Our Expectations

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . -John 1:14

In his opening prologue, John upends both Greek and Jewish core worldview assumptions. Greek thought assumed anthropological dualism--division between body (bad) and soul (good). Jewish thought assumed theological monotheism--one God, the Creator, who stands above creation, never to dirty himself by getting too close to it. John blasts both the Greek view of man and the Jewish view of God.

To Greeks, John says: the word became flesh. The old lines drawn between the inferior material and the superior immaterial are forever abolished. D. A. Carson comments:

If the Evangelist had only said that the eternal Word assumed manhood or adopted the form of a body, the reader steeped in the popular dualism of the hellenistic world might have missed the point. But John is unambiguous, almost shocking in the expressions he uses: the Word became flesh.

To Jews, John says: This fleshly man was somehow, himself, Yahweh. Here's how C. S. Lewis puts it:

Among the Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if he was God. He claims to forgive sins. He says he has always existed. He says he is coming to judge the world at the end of time. Now let us get this clear. Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it. But this man, since he was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God. God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world who had made it and was infinitely different from anything else. And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

It is Christmas, our celebration of the incarnation. What tired old ways of thinking about God is it time for you and me to shed this year? Have we tamed God over the course of time? Perhaps it is time to let the lion out of the cage again in our heart--to frighten us when he roars at us, to melt us when he dies for us. After all, as that erudite theologian Mr. Beaver puts it, 'he's not safe--but he's good.'

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