Incarnation and all that…

If we believe the idea of incarnation, if we sense that people saw God, or something of God in Jesus, and I do, we set ourselves a problem. We raise questions.

People want to know how can that be? If we are content with the mystery of not knowing there is no problem. We create the problem by running with the question. The consequences are multitudinous.

Mark just says, in effect, this is the beginning of the good news. My feeling is that, when he was writing the question hadn’t arisen.

John uses logos to get round the problem of God becoming flesh, human. To my mind the most easily acceptable answer in 2022.

Matthew and Luke construct myths. In their time the nature of these accounts would have been seen for what they were I believe, largely fictional, yet true as a novel is true, a sort of, ‘look, it could have happened like this, not saying it did, but’. Then pulling in all the scriptural ‘prophecies’ to justify the assertions. It worked then and becomes less plausible now.

More worrying is that it sets train the whole plethora of myths – Trinity, Fatherhood, divinity over against humanity, virgin birth, Ascension, which become dogma which ‘we must believe’ some would say, in order to be saved.

How much simpler, less arrogant and more exciting to say, IT IS A MYSTERY, I don’t understand it but here in this person called Jesus, I glimpse something of what I think God would BE like as a person. I’m agnostic as to the details but that doesn’t matter one jot! Best of all is God is with us – ‘give me the Good News in the present tense’ – as Sydney Carter put it.

The Trinity – some thoughts – nothing fixed or final of course…

On Twitter recently there has been some conversation about the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. Traditionally Christians believe that God is manifest in a transcendent form = creator, often called Father.

Additionally God has become incarnate, made flesh in the person of Jesus = Saviour often called the Son.

Finally Christians belove that God continues to be manifest in the life of Christians = the Holy Spirit.

The problem is that the Trinity is not specifically defined in Scripture though the names of the ‘persons’ of the Trinity are provided. Trying to put the ‘persons’ together involves mental gymnastics if we believe in Monotheism. Even the term ‘person’ is problematic as it defines an existent being.

An analogy might help:

Resonance, in chemistry, refers to contexts in which one or more electrons contribute to more than one bond in a molecule. A most common example is found in the resonant bonds between the carbon atoms of benzene rings. The molecule appears to be two things at the same time. Now if that is over-complicated it could be you’re not a chemist. No shame in that. But…

The Trinity says the same of God. God is three ‘persons’ at the same time. If we express this in familial terms we make analogies which are contradictory, don’t work. Anthropomorphising language makes it less intelligible. God is outside our human language and categories and means of expression.

What we name ‘God’ transcends time, space, language, understanding. God is not part of creation or an alternative creation. Ground of being (after Paul Tillich) best expresses this. So let’s just leave ‘God’ as mystery. Forget explanation and practise LOVE?

Ascension hymn – There are no trumpets sounding out

1       There are no trumpets sounding out,
no fiery pillars in the sky,
no monumental signs that shake,
no prophets with a haunting cry.

2       A still small voice speaks to our time,
a baby weeping from its birth,
and all its being seems to cry:
‘now is the time to spin the earth’.

[Is this the echo of the Christ
once lying in a stable stall,
who preached and lived a life of love,
whose dying offered grace to all?] This original verse can be omitted

3       His every moment challenged those
who heard his call who shared his life,
to turn their values upside down,
to put an end to hate and strife.

4       Now is the moment, now the time,
to hear the cry, to heed the word,
for us to take the path he trod,
however crazy or absurd.

5       He has no voice but ours to cry,
no hands to touch those fraught with pain,
Ascended, he left us the task,
to bring his love to life again.

Words: Andrew E Pratt (born 1948) © 2015 Stainer and Bell Ltd.
Tune: GONFALON ROYAL