We have two different points of view when we approach the issue of understanding our world view. This is very important as we need to know why we think what we do. I have highlighted the two biases as “sin is separation from God,” on the one side and on the other side we have, “objective union.” These points of view are diametrically opposed to one another. What tends to happen is those who begin with sin is separation from God tend to be a little sceptical about those who begin with objective union. I found that as I opened myself to “objective union” and studied it, the more I became troubled with the view of sin is separation from God. It is natural to think this way as the two points of view are not able to be reconciled without some significant problems.
The beginning point is always Jesus Christ, God in union with all things. A friend in South Africa calls this the Incarnational Code. He found the truth of all truths is the reality of God becoming man, flesh of our flesh and bones of our bones as the interpretive tool for everything we need to know about God. The Incarnation means the over-lapping of beings of the I AM of God with the i am of our fallen humanity where the two become one, what is understood in technical terms as hypostasis.
To understand the Incarnation as the Father’s understood it is of vital importance to the implications of this event in our human history. Jesus is the Emmanuel, God with us, the Saviour, who saves us by coming to be one with us by being one of us. What may have seemed to be to people around Jesus is an ordinary human being was in fact the human being who carried with Him as God, the very voice of God, cried the very tears of God, the very acts of God working with the single-mindedness of God in this human being like other human beings. This depends on how much freedom in His love we are willing to give God in His ability to be as human as we are and reconcile us to Himself in the depths of our falleness.
This was critical for the ancient Fathers as there were some serious heresies that were pressing in on “how” the Incarnation was supposed to have happened. When the Jews started to understand the event of Jesus’ life and the Spirit opened their eyes to the truth, it was accepted without question that Jesus shared the very same humanity as theirs. They asked the question “Why” rather than “How.” However, as it started to spread into the Greco-Roman world, their common worldview was the Incarnation was impossible because they could not reconcile a pure deity having any association with evil matter. In stead of asking why this happened, the more important question was how did this happen. the main problem lay in the fact that the Greco-Roman people who pressed this question would not let go of their heritage and adopt the Jewish framework of thought on what the Incarnation means. As Jesus was telling the Samaritan woman at the well that salvation is by way of the Jews, what He was saying is Jewish heritage lays out the meaning of the Incarnation. This is where the transforming of the mind is so important. If we miss this, then we focus too much on the how rather than the why.
What we have to be careful of is as receivers, we do not set the terms and conditions for which the Giver gives Himself to us. If the truth of the matter is that we find what God has done is too shocking then it is not for us to change the way God came to us but for us to change the way we view God. God’s love is so great that He became sarkos. That is the flesh of our flesh and the bones of our bones. It is from within these depths that God begins His reconciling work assuming our being into Himself. The battle for the ancient Fathers was to hold these two together.
Heresies came about as a result of the confronting reality of God coming as sarkos Man. In the Greco-Roman worldview there had to be answers to questions that were posed according to their belief system. Some were so concerned to preserve the Divinity of Jesus Christ that they had to explain His humanity in terms that were acceptable to what they understood according to their belief system. Jesus was therefore defined as having a different humanity to us that was seen as acceptable. Docetists tried to explain that Jesus only seemed to be human. Others explained that Jesus assumed a different humanity in that it was not like ours but a humanity that suitably accepted to preserve God’s divinity. Other heresies pressed the church with ideas to soften to reality of the Incarnation to fit in with their worldview. Apollinarianism proposed that Jesus did not assume the human mind. Apollinaris rightly perceived that the human mind is the seat of sin. He could not see how the wavering and changing sinful mind and the divine mind could converge and become one with the unmoved mind of God. Therefore, in the Incarnation, the mind of Christ was replaced by the divine mind so that all his thoughts would be divine rather than human. this meant that the divine mind did not actually touch the human mind and the ways and thoughts of God was kep at a distance to maintain the “sin is separation from God” premise. Then there was Nestorianism. Nestorius held the view that Jesus had two natures, one divine and one human. He believed that at the Incarnation, the divine nature became human without becoming fully human. When Jesus died, it was the human nature that died and not the divine nature. Again this was to try to hold together the premise of “sin is separation from God” with the Incarnation. Arianism, Adoptionism, Docetism, Gnosticism, Apollinarianism and Nestorianism all have the same premise that “sin is separation from God” and therefore the Christian idea of God coming as Man in Jesus Christ is not possible.
What I have highlighted here are the two rules for interpreting the Incarnation event. One begins with humanity as the measure of all things pertaining to God while the christian emphasis begins with Jesus Christ, the Man of Nazareth, as the measure of all the ways and works of God. It is “how can you being a man claim to be God?” the Greco-Roman world was asking. This is the wrong question. Rather, the Christian always asks, “Why have you God become Man?” We begin with this question, we begin to unpack the enormous and shocking reality of God who is free in His loving and loving in freedom coming to be with us in the very depths of our darkness and heals us at our lowest point.