God Retakes His Throne
The most scandalous belief in all of Christianity is that of the incarnation: that God would decide to take on flesh and live the human life common to mankind.
It is not lost of Christian’s how outlandish, almost preposterous, the belief sounds. It has been the criticism of orthodoxy since the very beginning, and it’s this very claim that caused the crucifixion in the first place.
Muslims, for example, leverage this attack upon Christians often by claiming that Christian’s have abandoned God’s transcendence and indivisibility. However, Christians reject this criticism by virtue of God’s simplicity and personality.
For example, a sphere is an astoundingly simple geometric shape.
It is as homogenous as a shape can be, yet it still nonetheless possesses 3 spatial dimensions. Analogously, God exists possessing 3 persons that, like length, width, and height, are all co-equal.
However, the 3 spatial dimensions are not actually independent “things”, like a platonist might argue, but rather are our descriptions for the dimensional differentiation that exists within the homogenous and unchanging space they describe.
Nonetheless, length is still distinct from height or width in its descriptive power even if it is referring to the same essence of space as the latter two. Similarly, The Father and The Son are different expressions of the multi-personal divine essence that is God. And, since God is personal rather than geometric, the expressions of his divine essence are likewise personal and distinct while sharing in that divine essence. This is the doctrine of Consubstantiality in a nutshell.
Now it would be a denial of God’s immutability to claim that God became man in the sense that we typically imagine becoming.
Rather, it is the Christian assertion not that God put up his divine hat one day and decided to retire on the planet he created, but rather that God put on flesh while unchangingly remaining God.
More specifically, that one of the persons of the divine essence decided to live as a human being.
I will spare you the long church history of debate and the ecumenical councils that arose as a result and remind you that this is partly still a mystery to me–grasping higher dimensions is a difficult skill when we are talking about only mathematics, let alone the creator of the universe.
However, I would like to at least posit one reconciliation: that of neo-apollinarianism.
Normal Apollinarianism is a heresy that argued that when the Logos, the Son, incarnated, Jesus possessed a human body, but that the human mind was replaced by the Logos.
However, this means Jesus was not fully man and thus denies the humanity of Christ.
Neo-apollinarianism, however, is a Christological model proposed by Dr William Lane Craig that argues that within the Logos are the components of humanity that allow the mind of the Logos to indwell the human body while maintaining the entire humanity of the person of Jesus.
He appeals to our having been made in the image of God, and thus the Logos’s personage can be conceived to be that of the archetypal man.
A way to perhaps understand this would be the difference between a working copy and an original. The working copy is degraded, used, written upon, ect., but the original is untouched, unchanged, and still holds all of its original meaning.
In the same way, God’s decision to make man in His image and likeness intrinsically facilitates the incarnation.
However, I heard a more recent objection to the incarnation by my Jewish mother.
It was not a theological or philosophical objection like I typically hear, but rather one that concerned motivation and ultimately legality: if God has appeared as a man in the past to Abraham before Sodom’s destruction, to Jacob when he wrestled til morning, or even when Moses when he asked to see Him, then why be born of a woman like Christians claim?
Surely an omnipotent God that wished to rule as a man like Christians claim could come down any time he wants, wave his hand in some displays of power, and then sit upon his throne uncontended.
He’s come in similar ways before, so why Jesus?
If all else was accepted, why should we accept that a perfect, Holy God would choose to endure the humiliation of human life in all of its ugliness.
My first thought was: “How Jewish of an objection!”.
And I completely understand: Jesus had to be breastfed when he ate, he had to have his butt wiped when he defecated, he had to program his brain to learn to walk, and he had to endure the failure of his flesh when it would get tired and exhausted.
Surely the LORD of all creation need not take such a roundabout method to incarnate.
This is a really good contention, and one that I find particularly fascinating.
There is much to be said concerning atonement and salvation and the requirement of Jesus’s hypostatic union, but I would only get lost in the weeds getting into those discussions as there is a gap between Jewish and Christian understandings of sin and atonement.
If we accepted the plausibility of all Christian metaphysical claims about God, at the end of the day, why can’t God just take his throne?
Well, I responded, because the Jews rejected him as king!
No, not when Christ walked the shores of Galilee, but all the way back in Judges before Israel ever had a King:
“And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.” (1 Samuel 8:7, ESV).
Israel in its desire to be like the other nations dethroned God Himself, however even though God in his grace and mercy granted the request, God desires to rule over His people.
Thus, God promised to king David:
“When your days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever.’” (1 Chronicles 17:11–14, ESV)
The Throne of David is to last forever and to be occupied by one of his offspring forever–an eternal dynasty.
This passage right here is the legal reason Jesus had to be born of a woman, because it was by birth that a King is given his throne.
In order to possess the birthright he promised to David;s line and fulfill his promise to the beloved King while also taking back His own throne, God thus had to be born in David’s line.
The only way this could happen is if He not only appeared as man once again, but appeared as the smallest and most humble form of man: an infant baby born of a woman.
With this plan, God is again King and Israel gets a human leader like the other nations.
God Retakes His Throne
Go here if you would like to view the podcast of Justin and John talk about this subject.
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Two Measures Foolish: Foolish to God for we sin – Foolish to the world for the cross.