Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


A Real, Human Jesus

posted by xscot mcknight

One of the questions I used to ask students in a Jesus class was “Do you think Jesus made mistakes learning Hebrew or mathematics or Israelite history?” This question, so I learned, was a good way to get students to think about the humanity of Jesus. It was also a good way to get some riled up. It was also a good way to get students to think about how the deity of Christ and the humanity of Christ interface. These discussions led me to a firm conclusion: most Christians who affirm the deity of Christ have no idea how to think about Jesus as a human. For this reason I like what Dan Russ has done in his new book Flesh-and-Blood Jesus.
Is there a rise in interest in the humanity of Jesus? What are the pros and cons of this rise? Do you think most Christians embrace the full humanitiy of Jesus?
Here you will find a sustained, gentle, accessible, and reflective attempt to explore not only that Jesus was human but what Jesus’ humanity can teach us about living as humans. Most don’t want to think about this topic, but Russ convinces me that it can be done — that it can be done without doing too much speculation and can be done in a way that does not become sentimental.
His topics: Jesus as a “manger wetter” (one I had not heard of), finding our place in this world, living with mother’s guilt, the problem of authority, the failures of Jesus (without sinning — just in case you are tempted to toss down your hat and stomp on it), Jesus’ need for friends, the dysfunctions of Jesus’ family, Jesus and sex, good and angry, doubt and fear, how to die, scarred for life, and learning to eat between meals.
I’d recommend this book for local church Bible studies, for small groups, and for lay folks who want to begin to explore the humanity of Jesus.



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Rob Grayson

posted October 17, 2008 at 2:28 am


Thanks for the recommendation, Scott – added to my Amazon wishlist. (Now all I need is someone to offer to buy me everything on my wishlist!)
Rob



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Rob Grayson

posted October 17, 2008 at 2:30 am


I should have said, another great book this made me think of is Phillip Yancey’s “The Jesus I never knew”. The focus is not quite the same, but it is similar in that it aims to get under the skin of accepted and often unquestioned ways of thinking about Jesus.



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Bob Brague

posted October 17, 2008 at 5:44 am


You do seem to like walking on the edge of the precipice, Scot.
Did Jesus curse like a Phoenician sailor when he smashed his thumb with a hammer? Did Jesus have eyes for the ladies? For the men? Boxers or briefs?
Please.



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Glenn

posted October 17, 2008 at 6:36 am


I once listened to a lecture about the humanity of Jesus. The teacher said if we were to play Jesus one on one in basketball, he would lose against many of us in the class. And there were some students he could never beat! That really provoked me to think of how limited Jesus was in certain areas by clothing himself in humanity. Isn’t this is one of the goals of Anne Rice in her current novel series? We need to think deeply about how human Jesus really was. What shaped him? Like it or not, Jesus had to grow just like the rest of us. And growing includes learning through trial and error and lots of humor in between.



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Scott W

posted October 17, 2008 at 6:42 am


Scot-
You’re too nice! In reality, most who name the name of Christ don’t really accept the humanity of Christ, thus–and this is the real issue–they really don’t understand who YHWH is,that is,the divine humanity of Jesus is the image of God.This is who YHWH is,and this is what we are to become (theosis).
Every Sunday at the Liturgy,as a part of my responsibilities, I incense the congregation and bow to them, signifying who they (we) are as created in YHWH’s image. What most people think this has to do with transcending our humanity;but it’s really about the realizing,in Christ,our full humanity in Christ.



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RJS

posted October 17, 2008 at 7:27 am


A fascinating topic – and one well worth considering because we don’t really have a good understanding of incarnation. It is related to consideration of what Jesus knew of his being and mission and when he knew it.
I have also found it interesting to look at the infancy gospels – which portray Jesus as a boy in a fashion that we would probably regard as sinful. They strike me as out and out heresy. Yet the church at the time they were written didn’t regard them as authentic, but also didn’t seem to regard them as heretical or sacrilegious in the way they portray Jesus. Has our understanding of sin – the problem Jesus came to solve – changed that much through the centuries?



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John C

posted October 17, 2008 at 7:35 am


Glenn – I like the basketball example – the thought of Jesus losing at anything would bother some people.
How about this quote from Billy Graham in 1958:
I’m not believing in some sissy. I’m not believing in some effeminate character. I’m believing in a real he-man, a real man who had a square jaw and strong shoulders. I believe that Jesus Christ was the most perfectly developed physical specimen in the history of the world. He never had sin to deform His body, His mind was perfect, His nervous system was perfectly coordinated with the rest of His body. He would have been one of the great athletes of all times–every inch a man. I can believe in Him; I can follow Him.



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RJS

posted October 17, 2008 at 7:54 am


John C,
That kind of quote bothers me – because it sets up “perfection” in a flawed way.
For one thing, his body was probably influenced and hindered by the nutritional realities of the local diet.



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Travis Greene

posted October 17, 2008 at 8:21 am


Bob, “Did Jesus curse like a Phoenician sailor when he smashed his thumb with a hammer? Did Jesus have eyes for the ladies? For the men? Boxers or briefs?”
Are you being sarcastic? Because I think these are legitimate questions. Maybe not boxers or briefs (he wore a seamless garment, right?), but certainly the way Jesus dealt with sexuality, anger, and pain should teach us a lot with how we are to deal with those things.



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John C

posted October 17, 2008 at 8:34 am


RJS – I agree. Graham was, of course, influenced by the tradition of muscular Christianity. But it sails too close to doceticism for my liking – as if Jesus was immune to bacteria and viruses. And as if he was a modern all-American athlete, rather than a 1st century Palestinian Jew ‘influenced and hindered by the nutritional realities of the local diet’. Perhaps this links with the other thread on Carter’s race book. It’s an example of the whitening of Jesus, a failure to reckon with his Jewish body.



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Scott W

posted October 17, 2008 at 8:46 am


Much of the anxiety around this issue has to do with WWJD in reference to his sinlessness. Most Christians tend to look at this from the wrong way ’round. We project our ideas about sinfulness from our socioreligious heritage and then try to understand the sinflessness of Jesus and what it may mean for us. But,this is a thoroughly theological dictum, grounded in YHWH’s vindication of Jesus’ life in his resurrection.According to the socioreligious understandings of most of his contemporaries, Jesus was the Sinner:how he spoke of his unique relationship with YHWH,how he did not subscribe to the understanding of holiness of the “Religious Right” of his day, that he fraternized with all manner of sinners and marginalized people in his time,etc. Jesus was fully human.



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tim atwater

posted October 17, 2008 at 9:10 am


another v good topic
the video version of Yancey’s Jesus I Never (#2) has some great moments, as he shows old film clips and gently deconstructs… (of Johnny Cash’s earthier-than-your-average-hollywood Jesus… PY says, ‘hate to argue w the man in black, but — blonde hair and blue eyes? i don’t think so!’)
Film never quite works nor do the midrashic infancy stories for me, but a good try still prompts good lines of contemplation…
grace,



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Bob Brague

posted October 17, 2008 at 9:13 am


Travis (#9), yes, I was being sarcastic.
I think too many of us hope Jesus acted just like us so that we don’t have to try to act like Him.
Fully God and fully human. Yes, of course. But when you and I think “fully human” we include sin in the mix. He had none. Sure, He hung out with publicans and sinners, and people *called* Him gluttonous and a winebibber. Doesn’t make it true.
We need to see Him high and lifted up. We need to seek to be holy, because He is holy. We need to see that love grew where the blood fell.



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Kyle Fox

posted October 17, 2008 at 9:30 am


I think there is a rise in this topic and its a great thing. This summer I taught a basic theology course at my church and the statement Jesus IS human threw a lot of people off.
Thanks for the post, this is, as usual, very helpful.



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ADHunt

posted October 17, 2008 at 9:40 am


winebibber….*giggle



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Travis Greene

posted October 17, 2008 at 9:44 am


Bob @ 13,
Yes, Jesus is holy, lifted up, God in the flesh. But he also farted. If that bothers you, you’re too close to docetism.



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Dana Ames

posted October 17, 2008 at 10:39 am


The vast majority of Christians I know are not prepared to grapple with Jesus as human.
Whatever understanding I have about Jesus as human has come to me through NT Wright’s “Jesus and the Victory of God”. When I finished it, all I wanted to do was fall down on my face and worship Jesus- precisely because I saw his humanity so blazingly clearly. It did not negate Jesus as God at all- it was astoundingly the opposite for me. In one fell swoop, Jesus became approachable as a human, something that had eluded me all my life, and more worthy than ever of worship as God.
The condescension of God in love and God’s humility and goodness are astounding.
Dana



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Bob Smallman

posted October 17, 2008 at 11:06 am


I’m surprised that no one has yet mentioned that line in Away In a Manger: “The little Lord Jesus, no crying he makes…” Somehow I have a feeling that baby Jesus might have awakened his parents in the middle of the night a time or two — and probably couldn’t change his own diaper!
A couple of years ago we sent some money to an orphanage in Mexico. In thanks they sent us a case of talking Jesus dolls — which we gave away to children who won some kind contest. A few weeks later a mom of one of those kids called her to dinner, to which the little girl replied, “I can’t come now, Mom, I’m playing with God!”
No doceticism (is that the word, or is it docetism — I’m at home today) in OUR church, brothers and sisters!



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RJS

posted October 17, 2008 at 11:31 am


Ah Bob (#18) ? now we get to the reason for the immaculate conception. Mary was, from the moment of her conception, by the singular grace and privilege of almighty God and in view of the merits of Jesus Christ the Savior of the human race, preserved immune from all stain of original sin. Thus Mary was sinless ? and of course she was perfectly attentive to the needs of her newborn son as no selfish need or desire could intrude. Jesus did not need to cry to get attention.



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T

posted October 17, 2008 at 12:00 pm


Dana (17),
Amen! Ditto here, except it was Wright’s much shorter, Challenge of Jesus for me. I so appreciated the idea that Jesus had to wrestle, learn and exercise faith–that he wasn’t omniscient. There’s no need for faith in omniscience, and omniscience is not the human experience in so many ways.



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Chris

posted October 17, 2008 at 12:18 pm


I like the idea of the book. I also remember the ” I can beat Jesus in basketball” line. I agree that we tend to pay lip service to the humanity of Jesus but can we really gain insight into how Jesus thought about some of the issues the book addresses? I mean, aren’t the Gospels meant to introduce us to the Kingdom of God and the Kingship of Jesus.Do the writers intend to answer the questions the book brings to them? Just wondering….
PS: I am with Dana (#17), Wright’s Jesus and the Victory of God is a book that really hammered home the humanity of Jesus for me.



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Patrick

posted October 17, 2008 at 12:35 pm


A related question…did Jesus every catch the common cold, or get the flu?



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Bob Brague

posted October 17, 2008 at 12:42 pm


Travis (#16), even admitting that what you say is true, it occurred only during a 33year period between the Incarnation and the Ascension (He did eat after the Resurrection, after all, in the body). In light of the fact that Jesus has always existed from all eternity past and will continue to exist through all eternity future, His earthly life was about as long as a blink.
He became like us, that we might become like Him. No flesh should glory in His presence.
And RJS (#19), from a different Bob, we have had this conversation before, I think. Now I think you are the one being sarcastic.



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RJS

posted October 17, 2008 at 12:57 pm


Serious no, Droll perhaps, but not too sarcastic I hope.



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Charles Churchill

posted October 17, 2008 at 1:02 pm


My assumption is that Jesus did indeed get sick, that he did indeed fart as Travis said. I do not believe that baby Jesus threw temper tantrums. Cried sure, but no losing his temper.
I think comparing Jesus to Adam is relevant. Adam was perfect, and so very frail. We make a great deal of human perfection, but look at what derailed Adam, fruit and the offer of knowledge? The perfect man is a very fragile thing, and the only way that Jesus Christ could live as a man under the law and not sin was because he was also God.
Interesting post.



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Travis Greene

posted October 17, 2008 at 2:10 pm


Bob @ 21,
I think you’re thinking about the Incarnation too much in terms of time. It’s not like Jesus was God for millions of years, became human for awhile, and then went back to being God for millions of more years. Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever (that’s in Hebrews I think), so he is and remains both Son of God and Son of Man.
Yes, absolutely He became like us so we might become like Him. He not only restores our relationship with God, he teaches us how to be true humans. Without sin. But not without emotions (including anger, and plenty of sorrow), and not without desire (he certainly was tempted in every way we are, which would include biological hunger and getting erections and so forth).
Certainly there is a danger of over-emphasizing the humanity of Christ at the expense of his deity, or thinking of him as just another fallen human. But for most Christians, I suspect this is not the biggest danger. The first heresy the early church faced was not the denial of Jesus’ divinity. It was the denial of his humanity.



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Bob Smallman

posted October 17, 2008 at 3:57 pm


Charles (#24): Not to draw too fine a point — Adam may have been sinless, but he was not perfect. To be perfect suggests having passed the test, and Adam failed his. That is why the writer of Hebrews can say that Jesus was made perfect through His suffering (2:10).
[The non-obsessive compulsive among you may simply ignore this comment!:)]



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B-W

posted October 17, 2008 at 4:56 pm


Passing along something from a class I’m auditing: I think it may be misleading to use the name “Jesus” when talking about the Second Person of the Trinity at all times (including Eternity) and places (including non-Earthly ones). Referring to this Person as “the Son” would still be accurate no matter if we are referring to the Second Person’s existence prior to the Incarnation, but “Jesus” is the name that the Son was given when he took on human nature.
Just a thought. Perhaps by clarifying our language we might get at some of the issues we’re discussing a bit more cleanly.



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Travis Greene

posted October 17, 2008 at 7:00 pm


So is the earthly Jesus not the 2nd person? Language is a problem, but I don’t like your solution.



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John Frye

posted October 17, 2008 at 8:00 pm


The reason so many conservative evangelicals are fearful of Jesus’ authentic humanity is that they are fearful of their own humanity. The old gnostic dualism lingers in the hearts of many—our bodies are not our friends; they are our enemies. We must die so we can “escape” this cacoon of sin.
Was Jesus’ fart holy?



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mariam

posted October 17, 2008 at 8:16 pm


The fact that Jesus was fully important as well as divine, is one of the main attractions of Christianity. After all, if Jesus was just some sort of super-hero, who knew everything and had no physical weaknesses, whose body never reminded him he was a man with biological urges – then what is the big deal? Easy for him to tell others not to sin, if his Godlike nature allowed him to resist all temptation. Easy to tell others not to worry about tomorrow, to turn the other cheek, to give everything away if he knew that he didn’t have to worry about what was going to happen to him. What is a few hours of suffering on the cross, if you know for certain, without doubt, that it will be all over soon and you will be in paradise. How stupid the humans around you must seem if you have all of God’s knowledge and nothing can surprise you. If you are already see face to face, do you really have sympathy for the creatures who can only see through dimly through a mirror? The reason Jesus MUST be fully human is because that humanity gives him an authority to tell and show us how we can live, an authority that is more full than if he was “just” God. His forgiveness, his suffering, his example means so much more if he is fully human. If God does not share our nature then how can there truly be a relationship?



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mariam

posted October 17, 2008 at 8:20 pm


oops. My comment above should read “the fact that Jesus was fully human as well as divine”



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B-W

posted October 17, 2008 at 10:02 pm


#29,
So is the earthly Jesus not the 2nd person? Language is a problem, but I don?t like your solution.
You completely misunderstood me, in fact suggesting the exact opposite of what I was trying to say. The earthly Jesus IS always the Second Person, but the Second Person is not always the earthly Jesus.



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Bob Brague

posted October 18, 2008 at 6:26 am


B-W (#33), please expand on what you are talking about. Did the Second Person ever appear as the Angel of the Lord, say, to Jacob or as the Captain of the Lord’s host to Joshua or as three strangers to Abraham in what might be termed “pre-Incarnation theophanies”? Or are you speaking of something else? And, if something else, what exactly?



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B-W

posted October 18, 2008 at 8:28 am


Those “pre-Incarnation theophanies” are not necessarily (although they might be) God, in person (or rather, any particular person of the Trinity), but rather angels (messengers) appearing and speaking for God, and therefore might be out of bounds for this discussion. I was simply trying to get at language for describing a fairly simple concept: The existence of the Second Person of the Trinity prior to the Incarnation. For example, when John speaks of the Word (logos) being there at the beginning with God, we understand this to be the Second Person: The Son. This person “became flesh and dwelt among us” in the human form of Jesus.
Seriously, I wasn’t even trying to say that anyone was wrong for using Jesus-language before the Incarnation, so much as that this can be confusing, and was trying to offer an alternative. But if the “cure” is more confusing than the disease, it’s better off dropped. I think you guys are making too big a deal about it.



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Anonymous

posted October 18, 2008 at 9:09 am


Flesh and Blood Jesus : Songs of Unforgetting

[…] Jesus Creed ? A Real, Human Jesus. […]



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Travis Greene

posted October 18, 2008 at 12:58 pm


B-W,
Sorry if we were all a little too combative. But I think any use of “before” and “after” when we’re talking about the Incarnation, or any conception of God experiencing time the way we do assumes too much. We just don’t know what we’re talking about. I still think not only is Jesus always the 2nd person, but the 2nd person really is always (in an extremely mysterious way) the earthly Jesus. If God is beyond time, then even the Word through whom and for whom all things were made before the foundation of the world is, in a way we can’t possibly understand, Jesus of Nazareth, the Jewish carpenter who eats fish and gets sore feet and likes children and probably doesn’t smell that great all the time.



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John Meadows

posted October 19, 2008 at 12:42 pm


From the perspective we hold as members of the human race, the Incarnation changed everything. It has to be the most momentous moment in all created history. Creation stood on tiptoe and rejoiced. Angels marveled. Satan shuddered. Humans were clueless. (Not much has changed there!).
The Word, the eteral logos, the One by whom all things were made, the One who had never not been the eternally begotten Son, who had never not been spirit, who had never not been in total oneness with the Father and the Spirit, limited himself to a human zygote; to Mary’s gene pool, to the local economy, culture and diet as others have noted. To the limited, culture-bound, history-determined world- view of 1st century Palestine — meaning, no Copernicus or Gallileo, certainly no Einstien, nor quantum physics, no germ theory etc.
Reflection on what this means regarding Jesus’ tenure on earth is mindblowing and “theology shaking” at times. Jesus “grew” in wisdom and in favor with God and man; Jesus “learned” obendience; Jesus “became” perfect (mature, complete), and many other well-made points in the omments.
The impliation is that he lived totally as a Spirit-filled, Spirit instructed, Spirit assisted and empowerred human, miracles and all. That his understanding of who he was and his destiny as Messiah was progressively revealed by the Holy Spirit through Jesus’ growing relationship with His heavenly Father. (He chose to know Him only as we know Him.) There really is a level playing field.
What would Jesus do? Chose to live in the power of the Spirit, not his essential God-nature. What should we do? The same. Deny the sinful nature, die to it and “empty” ourselves of it (or at least it’s influnce) and live in the power of the Spirit. If this is not true, then Jesus has a distinct advantage and it’s not really “fair” (just) for him to tell us to live as he lived and to do the same works he did.
OK. I’ve heard all the above taught, and I’ve owned it and taught it myself.
But how much reflection has been spent on the “post asencension” reality that “Jesus IS a man”, as somebody above said. Jesus didn’t stop being human after the resurrection or ascension. Glorified human, yes, but human none-the-less. A man died on the cross; a man rose from the dead. And post-resurrection, a man appeared to his disciples and told Thomas to touch him; ate breakfast with them on the sea shore; walked in the dust on the road to Emmaus; taught his disciples for 40 days, appeared to at least 500 at one time, gave the great comission, gave instructions about waiting for the Holy Spirit. A man ascended into heaven and the angel said that “this same Jesus” (the same man) would return.
Has anyone reflected or written on the reality that when Jesus limited himself to humanity, it was permanent, not temporary as many seem to think or at least imply. It seems that we won’t even let our minds go to this idea for fear of entering into hearsey.
But when Jesus limited himself forever, how did that effect the Trinity? By allowing Jesus to limit himself has the whole Trinity been limited? I understand that in God’s omniscence and foreknowledge that this was planned from the beginning and therefore, no surprise. And yet, how could God fully know, experientially until the deed was done? What kind of “agony of soul” must it have created in the eternal God-head? I know that these questions open up a pandora’s box of “openness” and who know what else? Maybe “over anthropamorphaizing” God? But questions and ideas like these keep popping up in my head.
Has the nature of the Trinity been “changed” by the Incarnation? How can that even be possible? And yet how can it not be true, if we believe that the Word became flesh, fully divine, fully human.
Am I going too far? If my understanding is accurate, there is a man, a God-man, albiet still a man, in the God-head. This sounds heretical, yet can we escape that conclusion, or at least that question.
It gives a whole new understaning and meaning to Jesus being our elder brother, the first-born from the dead, the first fruit of redemption, and the reality that the “Holy of Holies” including the mercy seat and the Shekinah glory stands wide-open for us to boldly enter as redeemed humanity.
Am I entertaining heresy? Am I going too far and treading on ground that should be left alone? I would like input.
I’ll show my ignorance here. Did any of the Fathers venture here? What about others? I know Athanasius pushed the envelope even posing the possibility that the Incarnation would have occurred even without the fall (or at least he asked the question). But I’m not aware of him asking the quesionts I’m asking here. I’m sure there must be others. Can anyone point me to some sources? What about your own thinking?



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josenmiami

posted October 20, 2008 at 7:14 am


wow John, that was a plateful. You asked a lot of questions … I don’t think I have the answers …but i will anticipate what others might contribute.



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jon

posted October 20, 2008 at 8:14 am


Scot, Thanks for the book recommendation! I like this topic very much because it was understand Jesus was all man helped me with my faith. Not the Jesus we find with a halo above his head and the flawless physique those depictions displayed, but a Jesus who embraced humanity.



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Charles Churchill

posted October 20, 2008 at 8:38 am


John Meadows said (among many other interesting things):
But when Jesus limited himself forever, how did that effect the Trinity? By allowing Jesus to limit himself has the whole Trinity been limited? I understand that in God?s omniscence and foreknowledge that this was planned from the beginning and therefore, no surprise. And yet, how could God fully know, experientially until the deed was done? What kind of ?agony of soul? must it have created in the eternal God-head? I know that these questions open up a pandora?s box of ?openness? and who know what else? Maybe ?over anthropamorphaizing? God? But questions and ideas like these keep popping up in my head.
Has the nature of the Trinity been ?changed? by the Incarnation? How can that even be possible? And yet how can it not be true, if we believe that the Word became flesh, fully divine, fully human.

John,
I would have to hold to the fact that Jesus Christ is eternally the Incarnate Son of God. I’ll admit that I’ve been thinking about this for some time and still don’t have everything hashed out, but I can’t make any other sense of it. If Jesus’ entrance into this temporal world “changed” the Trinity, we start to have serious problems reconciling the basics of the Faith.
I want to think about it a bit more though.
Thanks for raising the questions!



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John W Frye

posted October 20, 2008 at 9:25 am


I have also wondered if the addition of eternal humanity to the Trinity in the Person of Jesus the Christ brought “change” to the Trinity. How could it not? If a robust Trinitarian theology espouses 3 eternal Persons as One God and one of those Persons adds humanity (in the kenosis), is this not a substantial change?



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matybigfro

posted October 21, 2008 at 4:52 am


I found this topic wonderfully touched on in the shack



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