“If Christ is not man, then God has not reached us, but has stopped short of our humanity – then God does not love us to the uttermost, for his love has stopped short of coming all the way to where we are, and becoming one of us in order to save us. But Christ’s humanity means that God’s love is now flesh of our flesh and bone of our bone, really one of us and with us.” -T.F. Torrance
In between my readings of Barth’s II.1 & David Bentley Hart’s The Beauty of the Infinite, I have really enjoyed watching the television show ‘Downton Abbey’. I’ve been binge watching the show, and I have really found many aspects of the show fascinating. Most particularly the utter humanity the show embodies. Based in the early 20th century the show explores many themes of a changing world and those who look to resist it. What struck me was the humanity found in both the aristocrats and the servant class. No matter the societal structures, we are sure to find sin and suffering at every level. This element of the show is what interests me most. The utter brokenness we find in all people. We are in search of transcendence, for an escape from our current predicaments and pain. This only goes to show the true importance the universality of the Incarnation, and how Christ takes on the whole of our humanity to heal it. He takes our humanity ontologically, as to heal humanity ontologically. I don’t intend to get into the debates over how much of our humanity Christ takes on, but I tend to be with Barth and Torrance on this matter. When John refers to ‘the Word became flesh’, flesh here does not mean a neutral human nature but actually means our full human nature that exists in bondage and sin. Torrance emphatically proclaims:
“It was certainly into a state of enmity that the Word penetrated in becoming flesh, into darkness and blindness, that is, into the situation where light and darkness are in conflict and where his own receive him not. There can be no doubt that the New Testament speaks of the flesh of Jesus as the concrete form of our human nature marked by Adam’s fall, the human nature which seen from the cross is at enmity with God and needs to be reconciled to God. In becoming flesh the Word penetrated into hostile territory, into our human alienation and estrangement from God. When the Word became flesh, he became all that we are in our opposition to God.” (T.F. Torrance, Incarnation)
He came among us to save us. To heal our brokenness, and to comfort us in our suffering. Not only this, but Christ also plunged into the societal structures that oppress and alienate. A lot of the show also focuses on a woman’s role in the family and society at large, which would constitute not much in either situation (aristocrat or servant class). The Incarnation the life of Christ reconcile this form of our brokenness as well, by restoring our humanity to the form it was always meant to be and there by over turn our broken understanding of the roles of men and women.
“Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” -Matthew 1:20-25
“Jesus Christ is truly God and truly human. The incarnation means that God himself is in our world as a human among humans. Through the incarnation of his Word God reveals himself to us and reconciles us to him. This is the message of Christmas.” -Karl Barth
“Jesus Christ came among us sharing to the full the poverty of our ignorance, without ceasing to embody in himself all the riches of the wisdom of God, in order that we might be redeemed from our ignorance through sharing in his wisdom.” -T.F. Torrance
Merry Christmas all! The Lord be with you always.
I am helping my family journey into the Advent season. We put up an Advent calendar, a homemade version, with various treats and gifts inside each bag. Each day my son is rearing to open each bag, to discover what is waiting for him. Having a two year old son, and a two month old daughter really helps bring back the awe and mystery in life. They draw me out of myself, and help reorient my attention back towards them.
As the season moves along, I’ve been enjoying going through T.F. Torrance’s Incarnation. I’m fairly new to Torrance’s theology, so after getting through Incarnation, I plan on going through his book Atonement for Easter. Working through my reading for the day, I was struck by this particular statement from Torrance (at length):
“The Incarnation of the Son of God has a prehistory, a background or hinter ground of preparation and significance which we must not overlook. If in the divine purpose, the incarnation came at a particular point in time, in the history of Israel, it was clearly of design: it is at that point in the context of the history of Israel that Jesus is to be understood. If we are to be faithful to the witness of scripture we cannot but start in the same way. That does not mean that we are simply to interpret Jesus in terms of his background in Israel. The background for Christ the Son of God can only be the background which the fact of the incarnation creates for itself out of our world…We must say that when the Son of God breaks into historical development, he throws it all into critical reorientation.” (Torrance, pg. 38, 2008)
May the Word made flesh critically reorient our thinking and affections towards Himself and to our neighbors this Advent season, and everyday that follows.
Torrance, T., & Walker, R. (2008). Incarnation: The person and life of Christ ([Rev. ed.). Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic.