Some of the people who may be reading this have already been warned this subject is going to be… divisive, and I want to assure you, my dear readers, I am not at all attempting to create or disrupt any current understandings of Christ’s Incarnation. Rather, I am attempting to examine it from a philosophical perspective. This piece is designed to create a conversation, not a war of comments.
So, what is this piece about? Well, as indicated above, it is about Christ’s Incarnation. I can predict that several of you are on the edge of your seats worried I am about to drop heretical bombs or something. Don’t worry, I don’t think I am… I hope I’m not.
Specifically, this piece is about how the infinite enters the finite, and how the infinite within the finite enters back into the realm of infinite.
What do I mean? Well allow this very crude drawing to illustrate….
This would typically be an agreed upon illustration, though I know more than a few theologians who despise these sorts of illustrations because they, by their nature, are boiled down theology and thus full of holes.
What this illustration shows is that Christ came down from heaven upon conception and was born (e.g. Luke 1:26-38; 2:7, etc.), and after the cross (e.g. John 19:38-40, etc.) (and Resurrection! [e.g. Luke 24:2, etc.]) He ascended into Heaven (e.g. Acts 1:9-11). The Infinite God, who is unaffected by time and space, entered time and space at a given time.
(There are multiple arguments as to the exact date, and honestly it is not of huge import, but let’s be lazy and cite this article https://www.gotquestions.org/what-year-was-Jesus-born.html. It is a pretty good website for Apologetic purposes, though it does have some questionable answers to some doctrine.)
The infinite God, entering flesh, the infinite entering into the finite. After His death and resurrection, Christ enters back into the infinite time of God again (Ascension, e.g. Acts 1:9-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, etc.), exiting space and time (mind that Christ’s resurrected flesh is no longer finite and it is not ravaged by sin, time, or death).
And here is the divisive aspect: None of the theophanies of Christ are of the Pre-Incarnate Christ. Instead, these are the Incarnate Christ who exists in God’s Infinity visiting man in space and time, after He had already become Incarnate (theophanies such as: Genesis 3, Genesis 18, Genesis 32:22-32, Daniel 3:24-25, Joshua 5:13-15, 2 Kings 19:35, etc.).
So, it works like this: God created the universe and everything in it. This creates time and space. Prior to this, time and space were not. Once God creates these things, we see events described this way because we exist within the confines of that same space and time. Thus, events occur within it, such as Christmas and the Ascension. So, it is true that within our own time and space Christ was not always Incarnate; there was a date and a time and a space that these events took place in and at.
However, to God, these events always were. Thus, when we read Revelation 13:8, we can say Amen, because while Christ was slain in a time and space in our own existence, it was also always an event that took place. Christ was in Himself always Incarnate, Slain, and Ascended.
So, when we see instances of God interacting with man (again, see Genesis 3, Genesis 18, Genesis 32:22-32, Daniel 3:24-25, Joshua 5:13-15, 2 Kings 19:35, etc), and knowing the Father has never been seen (e.g. John 1:18, John 5:37, John 6:4, etc), one can conclude these are Christ. This same Christ walks in a garden, eats with Abraham, wrestles with Jacob, and even slays enemies. To eat, for example, is to possess a body that can consume material. We see that Jesus ate in His pre-resurrected life (e.g. Mark 2:15-16, etc.) and post-resurrection life (e.g. Luke 24:40-43). Thus, we know He ate during His incarnation.
Now we ask: Can pre-incarnate beings eat? Can they walk? To do either is to have a corporeal body. And yes, with God anything is possible, so could God walk and eat without a physical body? Yes, because He is God, but there is nothing within the texts themselves that suggests we take them as Him not having a body.
So, how does this impact doctrine? It doesn’t, specifically; but I will use a real life discussion… oh who am I kidding… a real life argument to display why this could be an issue.
On the surface and perhaps beneath the skin, it seems to create the idea that the Incarnation was not an important singular event that took place in time and space. But it was; it is. The event is extremely important and absolutely critical to the whole of salvation. It is only because this event took place in time and space within creation that the Incarnations of Christ occur in the Old Testament. This much more chaotic illustration shows what I mean:
This is where the paradox comes in. Because of an event that occurs within time and space, by the Infinite God Himself entering into that same time and space, and being Incarnate, Infinite within the Finite, God brings His own Body back into the Infinite, and appears in time and space with that same Glorified Body before the event actually took place.
This does not evaporate the importance of the event, nor does it extinguish the faith of those who were, in fact, looking towards the cross and the empty tomb. To them, as mortals, this event was something that would indeed take place in time and space in the future. The Patriarchs who saw Christ walking and eating in time and space prior to this event simply knew they were in the presence of God Himself. Their sight did not cause them to not put their faith in the promises of God. Their faith remained strong.
Honestly, I am not sure how to end this article because it all seems so speculative to me. And the individual I had this debate with was very insistent that the topic itself is really irrelevant because it is a paradox and since Scripture is not explicit on this reality there is no point in speculating. And in a sense, that is true. We cannot and should not be dogmatic on these issues. We know Christ was Incarnate! We know God appeared to the Patriarchs! We know Christ Ascended! But it is not without relevance to discuss, use our brains, and stretch our imaginations thinking about the topic itself. To wonder if, perhaps, we have been mistaken concerning God appearing pre-incarnate, and rather it was He appearing post-resurrection!
Just something to think about. I look forward to the comments. But whatever you do, please don’t burn me at the stake as a heretic.