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.
But 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 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.