01 January 2005
The uniqueness of Jesus?
In response to a friend struggling with the Christian belief in the uniqueness of God's Incarnation in Jesus, I offered some of my own thoughts on the matter:
OK, to take a convenient starting point: I believe (in my postmodernfashion) that the traditional Christian model of God as a Trinity ofthree persons in communion is an authentic way to talk about God. (Postmoderns tend to like words like "authentic" and "genuine" better than ones like "true" and "objective" and "absolute".) I'm not saying it's The True Way to talk about God--I think that there are other very authentic models for God-talk, including the Jewish insistence on"Unity. Period." and the "ineffable Godhead and effable God" model of recent Christian theologians. But I believe that, as limited human concepts go, it's authentic.
Therefore, I think it's authentic to talk about a Son of God, one of three persons of the eternal Trinity. I think that Son of God has been active in the world throughout history--among other things, "standing at the door" of each of our hearts "and knocking," as the Book of Revelation says. I imagine the Son's been active in other ways, but I do believe that the most definitive, visible, and downright amazing way the Son of God has been active in our world was in the Incarnation in the human Jesus of Nazereth. I think that this Incarnation, including Jesus's life, teachings, healings, sufferings, death, and resurrection, in some mysterious way is instrumental and central to God's graceful plan of Salvation, whatever that is. I think that that manifestation of the Son of God in the Incarnation in Jesus of Nazareth is so amazing, that it's worth wholeheartedly devoting the rest of my life to following him (again, whatever that means--discipleship is another big topic.) And, I've found that the evidence in my own life and in the lives of those around me is that, once having made this decision, I can perceive the gifts of the Holy Spirit (that other person in that authentic model called Trinity) aiding me in my pursuit of discipleship--just as the Bible writers claimed.
None of this precludes the also-unique (but *for me*, not as definitive) workings of God in the lives of God's billions of other human children throughout history. I think God is clearly "incarnate" in God's creation in many, many ways, especially in human beings, but from my own point of view, in no case more definitively and in no case more salvifically (how's that for a big, undefined word) and and no case more worthy of my discipleship than in Jesus of Galilee.
Hope that helps. I'm not really trying to convince you of anything, just stating how for a postmodern like me, I find it possible to find deep, profound meaning in doctrines like the Incarnation without it being quite so rationally black-and-white and sounding like the big guy with the white beard turned into the little guy with the brown beard and it's a cut-and-dried as that.