Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Thoughts about the Incarnation and the Trinity (whilst drinking mulled wine!)

It's that time of year when we think about Christmas - family, presents we probably don't need/want, too much food and drink and so on. One of the Bible readings you are likely to hear at church is the opening of John's Gospel, and in particular verse 14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.

What does it mean for the Word to become flesh? Well, the Word is the title given to Jesus as part of the Holy Trinity. In verse 1 it says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. In other words, Jesus, as the Word of God, was there in the beginning, not just during the 33 years he was on earth. He is God - how does that make sense, if we also have the Holy Spirit and The Father? There is a Latin phrase often used - Jesus was "totus deus" (wholly divine), not "totum dei" (the whole of God). God is one and three at the same time. St Augustine described the doctrine of the Trinity as a fence around a mystery, in other words it tells us what God isn't, not completely what he is. Whether he is right or not, the Trinity gives us a great insight into how God works and how he wants us to be. Firstly, he is a God of Relationship. The Trinity is a perfect model of interrelatedness, of diversity and unity. There is perfect love between them all. This means that, secondly, we are called to this type of relationship with our brothers and sisters. It can also be argued, thirdly, that the three aspects of God revealed in the Trinity, the Word, the Spirit and the Father can be related to aspects of our humanity, as we are created in His image. The Word (logos in Greek, meaning word, reason, mind and so on) can refer to our rational selves, the minds that God has given us. The Spirit refers to our spiritual aspect, through which we can come closer to God, and which can be the source of deep creativity and inner strength. The Father may represent many things - our picture of parents can be very distorted, but a perfect Father (or Mother) nurtures and protects its creation. We should do the same. 
How does the Incarnation fit in to this? I also see it as a model for our lives, for our understanding of the Bible, and many other aspects of our faith. We are made in God's image, but we are sinful, fallen creatures. We still have God's imprint, but it has been tarnished. True human nature would be like that of Christ, unified, through communion with him, in God the Father. The Bible is written by humans, of that there is no doubt. An Incarnational model of scripture argues that it is also the work of God. It is the human detail that gives it authenticity to us, fellow strugglers in this world. You just have to look at the honesty with which John describes the disciples' failure to get what Jesus is talking about to see that this is no piece of religious propaganda. However, with God's authorship behind these human authors, we can see the eternal truth in the Bible.The same applies to evangelism and serving God in the world. God doesn't need our help - He is mighty, we are weak. However, he graciously invites us to be his co-workers and, if we are willing, will do great things through our weakness. The Incarnation also applies to the natural world - as God's creation, it was originally the perfect combination of divine and physical. Like the rest of creation, it is fallen and imperfect, mainly as a result of our abuse of it.
So what's the answer? Christmas, that's what. God coming to us in human form, giving us the chance to redeem our fallen human nature. It's like perfect divinity came to fallen humanity, so that we could then reclaim our original nature as God's perfect creation. The Incarnation becomes revealed in us, as Jesus, through his coming to Earth, and his death and resurrection, bring the divine back into us. This ties in with Carl Jung's theories about archetypes. One of the most significant archetypes in history is that of the Wounded Healer, which reached perfection in Christ. Jung and his followers stated that, in therapy, the archetype can be split - the therapist is the healer, and the client is the weak, wounded one. That stops therapy happening, as each gets stuck in their role. The healer has to get in touch with his wounds, and only then can the wounded get in touch with his inner healer. I have seen this happen in my own work, and it is very powerful. Likewise, Jesus comes down to our level, so we can reach up to his.
So, there's a few thoughts on the subject. It's not meant to be a theological treatise, just some Christmas related ponderings that might set you thinking. Comments welcome. May you have a happy, peaceful and blessed Christmas.

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