Archives For Would Jesus Still Have Come If There’d Been No Fall? Original Sin

lightstock_59323_small_user_2741517Every year during Advent we let our confirmation students loose through the church building to take an informal poll.

The question we give the confirmands is the same every year:

Why did Jesus come to earth?

In other words, why Christmas?

Every year the questions are the same and, remarkably, every year so are the answers. The needle doesn’t move at all.

More than 3/4 answer, year in and year out:

that Jesus comes

in order to die.

And the problem with that answer is…it’s wrong.

So I thought what better way to anticipate the ‘Feast of the Incarnation’ than with a series of posts, mining the riches of saints and church fathers on the logical necessity of the incarnation irrespective of the Fall.

In other words:

That if Adam had never sinned God still would have taken flesh in Mary’s womb. Or someone like her.

That Joseph (or someone like him) still would’ve laid God in a manger even if God had not needed to die for our sin.

That the Son still would’ve donned golden fleece diapers even if we hadn’t needed a Suffering Servant to bear our iniquity.

#8 Reason Why Christmas Doesn’t Need the Cross:

The Incarnation is not ‘Accidental’

When we say that Jesus comes in order to suffer for our Sin- that he’s born to die- we suggest that suggest that Jesus might not have come.

The incarnation then is ‘accidental’ in the way the philosophers used the term; that is, God taking flesh is occasioned by Sin and not something more determinative and essential.

The incarnation then is something less than an eternal, unchanging decision of God’s.

img26064But that goes against the grain of what scripture tells us in Colossians: that the Son is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation through whom all things we’re made. Or as John testifies, in the beginning, before creation had a beginning, was the Word.

Before God had determined to create us, before God had ‘decided’ to save us from Sin, scripture tells us that God had decided eternally to be God for and with us.

To be God the Son, the God who would take flesh.

Jesus’ arrival can’t be limited to his role in saving creation from Sin because God’s decision to become incarnate precedes creation itself.

Put the other way around, as Nicolas Malebranche argued, if the incarnation is not a metaphysical necessity apart from the Fall then there is no purpose for God’s act of creation itself.

The way we so often speak of creche and cross mis-orders God’s intentions, implying that Christ is made for us rather than we for him.

As the 13th century theologian, Duns Scotus, put it:

“The Incarnation of the Son of God is the very reason for the whole Creation.

Otherwise this supreme action of God would have been something merely accidental or ‘occasional.’

Again, if the Fall were the cause of the predestination of Christ, it would follow that God’s greatest work was only occasional, for the glory of all will not be so intense as that of Christ, and it seems unreasonable to think that God would have foregone such a work because of Adam’s good deed, if he had not sinned.’

To think the incarnation is something less than an eternal, unchanging decision of God’s raises not just scriptural problems, but logical ones too.

If the incarnation is not an eternal decision of God’s, if the incarnation is not something God was always going to do irrespective of a Fall, then that means at some point in time the immutable God changed his mind about us, towards us.

Those who insist that Jesus was born in order to die attempt to safeguard an interpretation of one doctrine (substitutionary atonement) at the expense of an even more fundamental divine attribute:

God’s immutability.

God’s unchanging nature.

And this isn’t simply an abstract philosophical problem, for if God changed his mind at some point in the past about humanity, then what’s to stop God from changing his mind again in the future?

What’s to stop God from looking at you and your life and deciding that the Cross is no longer sufficient to cover your sins?

It’s true that Jesus saves us. It’s true that his death and resurrection reconcile God’s creation. It’s true that through him our sins are both exposed and forgiven once and for all, but that’s not why he comes.

That’s not why he comes because the even deeper mystery is that he would’ve come anyway.

Because he was always going to come.

 

lightstock_59323_small_user_2741517Every year during Advent we let our confirmation students loose through the church building to take an informal poll.

The question we give the confirmands is the same every year:

Why did Jesus come to earth?

In other words, why Christmas?

About 15% always respond that Jesus comes to teach us how to love one another and help the needy (I suppose those are the liberals).

Without fail, a reliable 85% answer, in so many words, that Jesus comes to forgive us for our sins.

That Jesus is born to die.

Every year the questions are the same and, remarkably, every year so are the answers. The needle doesn’t move at all.

More than 3/4 answer, year in and year out:

that Jesus comes

in order to die.

And the problem with that answer is…it’s wrong.

It’s wrong.

We lament the commercialization of Christmas. We kvetch about the war on Christmas. We talk about how Jesus is the reason for the season.

But it’s not clear to me that we’re at all clear on what the reason for Jesus is.

The more time I spend at bedsides and gravesides, the more I hear confessions and listen to struggles, the more people share of their faith and their fears, the more kids ask me questions, the more I’m convinced that the question ‘Why does Jesus come?’ is the most important question we can ask.

And so I thought what better way to anticipate Christmas- what the Book of Worship calls the ‘Feast of the Incarnation-‘ than with a series of posts on the logical necessity of the incarnation irrespective of the Fall.

That if Adam had never sinned God still would have taken flesh in Mary’s womb. Or someone like her.

That Joseph (or someone like him) still would’ve laid God in a manger even if God had not needed to die for our sin.

That Jesus still would’ve donned golden fleece diapers even if he hadn’t needed to bear our iniquity.

Before you think I sound heretical, keep in mind this series will just shamelessly mine the thoughts of saints and church fathers like Maximus the Confessor, Duns Scotus, Gregory of Nyssa, Nicholas of Cusa, Bonaventura, Thomas Aquinas and, yes, Herr Dr. Karl Barth. 

#10 Reason Why Christmas Doesn’t Need the Cross:

The Finite Doesn’t Determine the Infinite

img26064The problem in thinking, as most do, that Jesus comes to forgive our sins, the problem in suggesting that he’s born to die, is that it makes Christmas determined by us.

It makes the incarnation contingent on us:

on our sin

on the Fall

on Adam and Eve’s disobedience.

Instead of something that flows from God’s abundance, the incarnation is something provoked by our weakness. Like a parent reacting desperately reacting to a child’s temper tantrum- but a God of perfect love and apatheia (look it up) by definition doesn’t REACT.

When we think that Jesus comes to die, instead of a gift God gives out of joy for us, the incarnation is the outworking of God’s frustration and disappointment in us.

Like a parent giving their prodigal child one last chance.

But ask any parent of a prodigal child (or just watch The Super Nanny): it’s most often the child, not the parent, who’s in control.

I know most of think Jesus comes to die, that the occasion of this holiday is occasioned by our sin, but then Christmas isn’t something God freely does of his love and grace.

It’s something God’s compelled to do because of our plight.

It’s something God has to do to rescue us from Sin.

But by definition God- as in the only pure Being whose existence is absolutely necessary, making all else contingent through and through- doesn’t have to do anything.