This incarnate and human God

When we think of God, we often think of Him as a transcendent being, far above and beyond this world.  This would be the case whether we were mystics, Deists, or philosophers.  Or, we might think of Him as a being who dwells within us.  Or as a being who is both transcendent and indwelling.

Certainly, Christianity teaches both the transcendence and the immanence of God.  But this, while true, is not enough, and what Christianity teaches about God goes further:  God is incarnate.

Jesus Christ is God in the flesh, God made tangible, God as a human being, God revealing Himself to us in the only way we can truly understand, God for us.

In one of his most striking passages, Luther warns about trying to contemplate God as an abstraction or in His glory apart from Christ.  If we try to think of God apart from Christ, Luther writes, He will be “intolerable.”  Rather, particularly when we think of our salvation, “We must look at no other God than this incarnate and human God.”

Read what Luther says about this after the jump. [Read more…]

Christianity is not spiritual, it’s physical

In an interview with Nadia Bolz-Weber, the ELCA “pastrix,” when asked about those who consider themselves “spiritual, but not religious,” turns the terms around, saying that Christianity–what with the Incarnation, the Crucifixion, the Resurrection, and the Sacraments–is not so much spiritual as physical. [Read more…]

God from above vs. God from below

I’ve started working through the Christian Year of Grace by Johann Spangenberg, a contemporary of Luther who, as a pastor and educator, wanted to provide laypeople a guide to help with the devotional reading of the newly-available Scriptures.  He took the appointed Scripture readings for each Sunday, then–as a classical educator trained in dialectic–offered questions and answers that take the reader deeply into the riches of these texts.

After the jump, I’ll give you an excerpt from his treatment of Romans 11:33-36, the Epistle reading for Trinity Sunday:  “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God:  how incomprehensible are His judgments, how unsearchable His ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord?” [Read more…]

Mary, Did You Know?

As I’ve said before, the great challenge for an artist–whether an author, musician, painter, or whatever–in depicting Jesus Christ is how to portray Him as both God and Man.  In Christmas art, some work portrays Him in His humanness as a cute little baby.  Other work, such as the classic icons, show the Child as transcendent God.  Both are fine, conveying profound truths about who Christ is.  But the very best art about Christ somehow evokes BOTH His divinity and His humanity.

I have a candidate, a contemporary Christmas song, that pulls this off:  Mary, Did You Know? by Mark Lowry and Buddy Greene.  Here are the lyrics.  After the jump, a video of my favorite performance of the song, the haunting version by Kathy Mattea. [Read more…]

How God uses the imagination

More from my interview with Mathew Block, who asks how God uses our human imaginations to reach us. [Read more…]

“God suffered, God died”

Some of the deepest waters of Lutheran theology and where it makes some of its greatest contributions are in the realm of Christology.  For Lent I have been reading The Two Natures in Christ by Martin Chemnitz, that master of Biblical, Medieval, and Patristic (not only Latin but also Greek) sources and the principal author of the Formula of Concord.

Studying all of this has given me some new understanding and appreciation for the magnitude of what happened on that first Good Friday.   Article VIII of the Formula of Concord turns an assertion that was highly controversial at the time into a matter of confessional subscription:  That we are to understand the Incarnation and the Atonement in such a way that we can affirm that “God suffered” and “God died.” [Read more…]


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