Sunday, February 11, 2024

Being & Doing, Necessary & Sufficient, Incarnation & Atonement

Even if he wanted to, God couldn't exactly "come down," since "heaven is not a 'place,' whereas earth is; or, if heaven is a place, it is one of a very different kind from earth" (Mascall). God can't go anywhere, because he's already there.

Hmm. He's got a point. How are we to think of this? "The 'descent' which we observe is relative not to heaven but to us" (emphasis mine). 

Perhaps it's analogous to how it appears from our perspective that the sun revolves around the earth: just as the sun doesn't ascend or descend, nor does God.

Thus, it is literally accurate to say that we can ascend, but a kind of convention to say that God descends (emphasis mine). 

And why does this matter, oh thrice-knowing Peltmaster?

I don't know yet, Petey. Parts of this book are rather dense with implicit meaning, so I'm just flipping one page at a time. I think Mascall is just re-emphasizing that the ncarnation means we are "taken up" into Godhead, not that God himself has gone anywhere.  

The point is that

the Incarnation is not to be thought of as the compression of the divine Word within the limits of human nature but as the exaltation of human nature to the level of Godhead by its union with the Person of the divine Word.  

Besides, if not us, then who? "What more adequate instrument than a human nature could he assume?" After all, we are already the image and likeness, so there's a lot to work with. 

A few posts back we were wondering what sort of being man must be in order to be an adequate vessel for God's cosmic reclamation project, but

human nature is essentially finite and cannot itself bridge the gulf that separates the creature from Creator. But what it cannot do for itself, God can do for it.

At least in potential. That is to say, part of our standard equipment must include a "passive capacity" for this union, even if we cannot by our own exertions achieve it. 

For it seems there is a kind of barrier at the top of (↑) -- call it () -- unless God himself assumes () and removes or breaks through the blockage. 

Genesis 3 gives the image of exclusion from Eden as a flaming sword turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. Perhaps the bar at the top of () is that flaming sword, precisely. There's a way back, but we can't get there from here:

Even if he managed to make his most audacious utopias a reality, man would continue to yearn for otherworldy destinies. 

Man "is a terribly frustrated and mutilated version of what human nature is meant by God to be." In this condition we can see that there is a ceiling and a window, but is there a door? Yes, but it is locked from the inside.

 I am the door.

Who said that?! 

the ultimate purpose of the Incarnation is not just the re-creation of human nature in Jesus, but the re-creation of the whole human race into him.

There is Incarnation on the one hand, Atonement on the other, and it seems that the first is a necessary condition for the second; Jesus must first be in order to do. Do what? Atone. If we're on the right track, then Atonement must be the final removal of (). Incarnation includes the assumption of our (), and its transcendence.   

If the human race needed only to be restored in one concrete instance, then there would be no need of the Crucifixion.... [Jesus] has, in his own person but in [our] place, as the representative man, to reverse [our] sin. He has to meet the enemy which defeated [us] and defeat him.

Is there no other way

Christ "challenged and overcame the very forces to which man had succumbed.... For only God can pay the debt which man owes, and yet it must be paid in the person of man."

And only God can overcome man's ancient enemy, while the battle must be none the less fought in human nature, since its fruits are to be communicated to men.

I for one don't like it. It's not the religion I would invent. Too crude and barbarous for my delicate sensibilities. But it's not my call to make:

Christ has overcome the powers which enthrall us though they never enthralled him.... Since Christ is the universal man, his payment of our debt and victory over our foes were in actual fact our re-creation, even though the fruits of that re-creation can be produced only as, by grace, we live in him.

I don't know. You'll have to convince me. I'm still a little

Deep faith is only that of the skeptic who prays.

And the prayer is something like: God, help me become the person you intended for me to be

Mascall writes that 

Because the human nature of Christ is both assumed by him and sacrificed for us, the fruits of the sacrifice can be ours through incorporation into him. But this will be the subject of the next chapter (emphasis mine).

Okay. We've waited this long. We can wait another 24 hours.


julie said...

I for one don't like it. It's not the religion I would invent. Too crude and barbarous for my delicate sensibilities.

It's all so very brutal and dramatic, isn't it? But then, when you look at the extremes of human nature, it tends to be pretty brutal and dramatic. Modern Christian culture still loves to paint a vision of Jesus as being just gentle, meek and mild, but if that were the case and we in his image, wouldn't we be generally pretty docile as well? Our highest highs would be simply nice, and our lowest lows would be something along the lines of mere disgruntlement.

Flipping over tables and laying about with whips suggests there's more to the story of him and us than passivity. Crude barbarism is baked into our cake as well, at least when the circumstances call for it.

julie said...

God, make me the person you intended for me to be.

Amen; now if only I could get out of the way of the process...

ted said...

But what if God intended me to be a woman?, says a lost lefty. Well, he would have made you a woman. Simple.

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