Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Implications of the Incarnation

The Incarnation, God's taking on of created matter in the body and soul of Jesus, means that Christianity is inherently an anti-dualistic faith (St. Irenaeus was right, in other words, to fight so ferociously against Gnosticism). That is, Christianity not only sees the created order (the kosmos) as essentially 'good' (Gen. 1), but as reestablished in its goodness due to Christ's coming "in the flesh" (I Jn.) and the eschatological work of the Spirit in the Church (Rom. 8).

This can be seen, firstly, in the interaction between Christ and the woman with an issue of blood (Mk. 5). In the Levitical standards, if a person comes into contact with someone who is 'unclean' (breaks the blood boundary, e.g., not necessarily a 'sinful' person), then they become unclean themselves. However, notice that Christ not only does not become unclean, but rather cleanses this poor woman. He, in the flesh, has brought healing and holiness to this woman. Her flesh is made clean by coming into contact with Christ (notice, as well, the role of allegiance or faith in the encounter -- her faith was an active faith).

More can be said, though. Some of the seemingly insignificant details of the Gospels become radiant when viewed through the Incarnation. When Christ goes down into the waters of the Jordan, his presence blesses all waters: the holiness of God has been brought down to the mundane level. Because of this reality, we can be thankful for all waters. When Christ eats with his disciples after the Resurrection, even though food was not technically necessary, he blesses food and eating forever, which we receive with thankfulness. When he is crucified on a tree, he blesses all trees, for which we can be thankful. Christ restores the world to its wholeness and fulness, even reversing the curse on the ground (Gen. 3) by wearing the thorns upon his blood-sweat brow and by being entombed in the earth.

The Incarnation, then, is the foundation for an ecological ethic: if Christ has made the whole world holy, then we must treat all things as such. All things have meaning in relation to God, especially as God has revealed Himself through the Incarnation. This is why the Apostle Paul might tell us that the whole creation eagerly awaits its release into the glorious liberty of the children of God. Christ, by his coming, has brought Jubilee -- the whole world has reverted to its rightful owner, the Lord Himself, and we are His tenants and stewards of this great, awesome, and mysterious place that has been cleansed for God's Presence by the body and blood of Christ himself.


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