Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Williams on the incarnation

“Jesus of Nazareth is the face of God turned toward us in history, decisively and definitively. All this life is God’s act. The church did not invent the doctrine of the Incarnation: slowly and stumblingly, Christians discovered it. If Jesus is translucent to God in all he does and is, if he is empty so as to pour out the riches of God, if he is the wellspring of life and grace, what then? He is God: in infancy, in death, in eating and drinking, in healing and preaching…. [H]e is there for all, because he has made himself God’s ‘space,’ God’s room in the world…. God and humanity are knotted together there in that space of history, those short years in Palestine, so that that history is the sign that interprets all history.”

—Rowan Williams, Open to Judgement (London: 1994), 60.
H/T Ben


Drew said...

that history is the sign that interprets all history

What a fascinating phrase.

Adam Gonnerman said...

Italicslowly and stumblingly, Christians discovered itItalic

This is a point not often understood or agreed upon. The popular view is that Jesus of Nazareth was fully aware of his divinity. I'm not so sure. I do think he was/is truly God, but not that he knew this completely. At least, not prior to his resurrection.

Vaughan Smith said...

That doesn't wash. John 10 shows Jesus aligning himself with the good shepherd imagery of Ezekiel 34, which enough was to show that he thought he was God. That's not even taking into account verse 30...

Anonymous said...


Jesus was identifying himself with the "servant David" of Ezekiel 34:23, not with YHVH.

"And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd."

The doctrine of the Incarnation is not founded on Scripture but was invented by the Graeco-Roman fathers. Are these the 'stumbling Christians' to whom Rowan Williams refers? His comment could not refer to the apostles as such pagan notions would be considered detestable by Hebrews.

Vaughan Smith said...

How then do we explain away Jesus' words in John 10:30? I haven't read one Graeco-Roman father, but if you consider John 1 scripture, then you have a problem.

Anonymous said...

Vaughan, you asked:

"How then do we explain away Jesus' words in John 10:30? I haven't read one Graeco-Roman father, but if you consider John 1 scripture, then you have a problem."

John gives the spiritual presentation of Jesus that the other gospels lack and, unfortunately, it is from a banal interpretation of these spiritual words that the incarnation and pre-existence doctrines draw their support.

In John 17:11, 20, 21-23 and 26, Jesus himself expands upon what he meant when he said "I and the Father are one"

Jesus is speaking of an affinity of spirit - of love - binding his disciples, his believers, himself and the Father into one bondage.
If the interpretation is made on the basis that Jesus IS the Father, then there is as much authority for saying the same thing of the disciples, and the believers for all were to be perfected into one.

Aside from the long-standing scholarly debates about whether the text of John 1:1 should read 'the Word was God' or 'the Word was divine', to use this text as a proof of the 'divinity' of Jesus is to overlook the similar words in 1 John 1:1 where the 'Word' is identified as the Word of Eternal Life.

The implications are self-evident - it is the 'word of eternal life' that existed from the beginning. Jesus is the personification of God's 'Word,' existing from the beginning,in precisely the same fashion as Solomon had been previously regarded as the personification of God's 'Wisdom', existing from the beginning.

Vaughan Smith said...

You are also overlooking the use of the same word in John 1:18 and 20:28.

Really, it's up to you whether you want to believe that Jesus' divinity was a result of some Graeco-Roman vote. It is an illogical position, of course it was detestable to the Hebrews, otherwise Jesus would not have been crucified. They knew only God can forgive sins.

Anyway, I don't really need to get into a debate on whether or not the Bible teaches God's divinity. Anybody without vested interests can obviously see that it does. Have fun selling your book.

psychodougie said...

Hebrews 1:1-3 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

even we, as this side-winding discussion continues, are still stumbling to grasp Jesus: fully man and fully God.

he says some good stuff does rowan. just wish he'd ease off on the tripe...

Unknown said...

I didn't think Jesus said He is God the Father, I think He said He is God...