For Your Advent Reading and Consideration: Bloesch on Jesus and the Incarnation

I have been really trying to read christological things this month, primarily because of Advent season, and also because I always like to try and read christological things (including the Bible) 😉 . And so in this vain let me adoration.jpgoffer you a quote from evangelical theologian, Donald Bloesch. He is a good mix of Barth, classical stuff, and his mentor, Scottish theologian, P. T. Forsyth. Here is what he writes just after surveying various conceptions (mostly modern) and ways into christological articulation; he is offering his view within the boundaries of classical orthodox Christology, but he does so through his own constructive and situated twist. He writes:

The human nature of Jesus is subordinate to his divine nature. This subordination does not mean the cancellation of humanity but the realization of true humanity. True freedom lies in perfect submission (Rom 6). God dwells and acts not in the appearance of a man but in a man with real flesh and blood. It is God himself who acts and speaks in and through this earthen vessel. Quoting Isaiah 63:9, Cyril of Alexandria insisted that “it was not an elder, nor an angel, but the Lord himself who saved us, not by an alien death or by the mediation of an ordinary man, but by his very own blood.”

I affirm the sinlessness of Jesus because he was filled with the Holy Spirit from his conception. True humanity is the humanity as designed and created by God—the humanity that lives in perfect conformity with the will of God. Fallen humanity represents a corruption of humanity, a spurious humanity. Christ took upon himself human corruption though he lived as a person victorious over sin and corruption (cf. Heb 4:15). He experienced temptation but always rose above it. Because of the purity of his commitment, temptation could find no lodging in his being (as in the case of sinful mortals).

To be truly human does imply being limited, and Jesus was limited as a human being. He could have erred because of his kenosis or self-emptying, but he never swerved from the truth because of his union with divinity. He was vulnerable to error, but he did not stumble into error.

We do not yet exist in communion with Christ simply by the knowledge that God was present in the historical Jesus. We must be awakened to faith in the living Christ if his incarnation is to be salvific for us. In Luther’s words, “You do not yet have Christ, even though you know that he is God and man. You truly have Him only when you believe that this altogether pure and innocent Person has been granted to you by the Father as your High Priest and Redeemer.”

The incarnation was not limited to the earthly life of Jesus, but Christ continues to exist in incarnate form because his humanity was resurrected. This is why we can speak of a permanent incarnation. As Baillie says, “If we believe in the Incarnation, we cannot possibly say that Jesus ceased to be human when He departed from this world.” This belief in the continuing or permanent incarnation is reflected in the Westminster Shorter Catechism: He “being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever.”

We may speak of an extension of the incarnation not in the sense that the church is the incarnation but that all members of the church are related mystically to its Head, who alone is the Incarnate One. Through the power of the Spirit of God we who believe participate in the one incarnation, but we do not replicate the incarnation. We are indwelt by the Spirit of Christ, but we do not ourselves become the Christ. We are servants and emissaries of the Word but not re-presentations of the Word. [Donald G. Bloesch, Jesus Christ: Saviour & Lord (Downers Grove, Illinois: Intervarsity Press, 1997), 73-4.]

Some good precise thinking on Jesus. What I like to do with this kind of stuff is to concentrate or compress it even more into the depth dimension of God’s life in Christ. In other words, Bloesch is offering a confessional statement about his own beliefs on Jesus (rooted in the history of Christian ideas and development, and Scripture), that invites us, invites me to move further into the implications of what it means for the humanity of Christ and the divinity of Godself to be united together into the singular person, Jesus of Nazareth. It causes me to reflect further on what this implies for me as a human being to be in relation with God, and how that works through union with Christ. It makes me ponder further about the heavenly/Priestly/Kingly session of Jesus in his embodied incarnate form as he sits at the right hand of the Father; this makes me wonder about what it means for all of the pleroma or plenitude of God to be present in Jesus, who now sits over all of creation, principalities and powers. It reorients the way I approach my drive to work this evening, and my time at work for the next 8 hours; it provides deep perspective for me that others around me might not have in regard to human significance, and why it matters if we do a good job, or not while at work.

There are all kinds of rich things to think about in light of the advent of Jesus Christ.

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