Tuesday, September 27, 2011


Different Kinds of Incarnation?

Justin Taylor quotes Ray Ortlund:
What I am saying today, on the basis of Galatians, is that the gospel, and justification in particular, calls for more than doctrinal subscription; it also calls for cultural incarnation.

I am not saying it is easy to follow through at both levels. It is impossible without Christ himself, as I will assert in my conclusion. But I am saying we would be unfaithful to settle for doctrinal correctness without also establishing a culture of grace in our churches and denominations and movements.

In other words, if justification by faith alone is the doctrine on which the church stands or falls, what does it look like to stand rather than fall? Is it possible to fall, while we think we are standing?
Now that is one heck of a great point - it is saying, that if we are justified, it must be evident in our lives, and through our lives it must become evident in the culture. That is a point I have made on this blog over and over and over again.

But why must a perfectly defined and well meaning word like "incarnate" be appropriated in this instance? Two things are going on here. In the first place we want to appropriate a word that has power associated with it in order to use that power to make the point we are trying to make. Thus we take a word, "incarnate," associated with one the central miracles of Christ and our faith and use it in a different context. Secondly, in doing that we steal some of the power from the word until it no longer has meaning or power - and a vitally important concept in our faith will be lost until we can find a new way to frame it, if we ever do.

As I write this, I think about my years in Young Life and our talk of "incarnational ministry." That was probably what started us down the road to this point, but at least when we used it there it had a whole life context - It was about becoming like Christ and trying to let Jesus shine through us where ever we were. We did not "incarnate in a specific setting, or context - we tried not to limit the word.

We cheapen our faith in so many ways. One of them is when we do not allow the large, powerful and mysterious to stay large, powerful and mysterious. We need to learn to preserve both knowledge and mystery.

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