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Many Christians and non-Christians have problems with the Christian doctrine of the incarnation. The doctrine holds that God the Son while remaining God took to Himself our human nature. He became a real, true, historical man who walked on earth. Jesus was fully God and fully human yet one person.

Many non-Christians criticize this doctrine, and many Christians are uncomfortable with it. To better understand the doctrine, let’s consider its source and meaning.

Jesus

The origin of this doctrine is not from philosophical speculation but from Jesus, and the Bible. It was obvious to the Apostles that Jesus was a human being. It is also obvious that He claimed to be God. Given that it is usually the mentally deranged or megalomaniac who claim to be God, it is not a surprise that the four ancient biographies of Jesus (the four Gospels) regularly show the apostles and their confusion about Jesus.

Their first-hand, daily knowledge of Him, meant that they knew He was not a lunatic or a megalomaniac. Neither was he even remotely like a pagan “god” or “demi-god” – His character was too good. They knew this, but who He was and how He acted and what He said kept throwing them off balance. They did not have a category for Him.

Vindication

So how did this move towards some type of resolution? Jesus predicted He would die. More than that, He predicted that He would die in a way that He could not control (crucifixion was controlled by Roman Imperial Power). More than that, He predicted that He would rise from the dead. This would vindicate who He was and His teaching.

This is a completely impossible claim (from a natural point of view). Yet if it transpired as Jesus predicted, then it is completely reasonable to see the death (by crucifixion), the burial, the resurrection, the empty tomb, and the resurrection appearances as vindicating who Jesus claimed to be and what He taught about His purpose and the purpose of human life.

This means that the truth about the incarnation does not rest on philosophical speculation, but upon who Jesus is and what He taught. Given that, “in love He came and sought us;” that He came to give us abundant life; that He came that we might know the truth that would set us free; that He is Himself “the way, the truth, and the life”, then it is wise to press into His words and listen and think deeply about what He said.

Mystery

In light of why He became incarnate, why He died, and the reality of His death and resurrection, the truth of the incarnation is secure at the level of the heart and the mind. To acknowledge that you do not fully understand the incarnation is not a cop-out in the face of criticism from skeptics. Your belief in this teaching rests not on your reasoning, but upon the facts – the truth and power of His death and resurrection

This does not mean that Christians have not thought deeply and well about the incarnation in light of challenges made to the doctrine by other religions, heretics and skeptics. There is a long history of brilliant men and women who have thought matters through and defended the teaching in the face of objection. I encourage you to seek them out!

In the meantime, pray that the Lord will grip you anew with wonder and the glory of Immanuel, God with us as God; God with us to be for all who trust in Him.

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