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Rome, Geneva, and the Incarnations Native Soil

Posted: 29 Dec 2013 09:16 PM PST

This is a cross-post from my own website, Creed Code Cult, in which Id like to summarize some of the points I have been making lately about the Catholic Churchs emphasis on the mystery of the Incarnation of the Son of God, and why this dogma is more at home in a Catholic context than a Protestant one. 1. If there is a connection between Christology and Ecclesiology (Umm, hell ooo ? The Church is the Body of which Christ is the Head, so Id label this connection as uncontroversial), then the idea that the eternal Son assumed human nature and took on a real, flesh-and-blood body just like ours, is more consistent in a visible-church paradigm than in an invisible-church paradigm. The physical body of Christ was visible; you could point him out in a crowd or identify him with a kiss as Judas did for the Roman soldiers. And likewise, the Catholic paradigm posits a visible church that is as identifiable (in a Look, its right there sense) as the physical body of Jesus of Nazareth was. Protestantism, on the contrary, posits an invisible church that is more or less visible depending on the circumstances. The purer the church whether universal or local the more visible the church is. When it slips into impurity, its visibility fades. Like the siblings in Marty McFlys family photograph in Back to the Future, the visible church in the Protestant paradigm

can begin to disappear one minute only to reappear the next. If this dynamic of the so-called visible Protestant church were applied to the body of Jesus of Nazareth, wed have a Christology that is more Docetic than orthodox. 2. A similar dynamic exists in the Protestant understanding of the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. Is Christ present at the Table or not? Like with the question Is the church visible or not, the answer here is, It depends. If the worshiper is a worthy receiver, then yes, he indeed feeds spiritually and truly upon the body and blood of Christ. But if the worshiper is unworthy and faithless, then what he is eating and drinking is not Christs body and blood, but simply ordinary bread and wine. This also smacks of Docetism, as if Jesus of Nazareth could have been truly present with Zaccheus, partially present with Nicodemus, and completely absent with Judas, even though they were all standing right in front of him in the flesh. 3. Moreover, the Catholic paradigm makes much better sense of the Incarnation by its gospel demonstrating the need for the ongoing and continual humanity of Christ. If salvation consists largely (almost exclusively to hear some Protestants tell it) in the forensic imputation of the active and passive obedience of Christ by which the sinner is legally justified in the divine court, then the need for Jesus humanity can be said to have expired after the ascension. But if, as the Catholic Church maintains (echoing the fathers), salvation consists primarily in the deifying participation of humanity in the divine nature, which happens by means of Christs glorified humanity and risen flesh, then what happened at the Incarnation was a much bigger deal than some Protestants realize. The Son didnt don flesh for the purpose of the atonement only to shed it later, but he ever exists in that glorified flesh. Protestants, of course, will agree with this statement. But the forensic emphasis of their gospel, and their hand-wringing over anything that smacks of ontological participation in the Godhead, only shows how much more at home the mystery of the Incarnation is in a Catholic context. In fact, the insistence that the only intersection possible between the human and the divine happens by means of covenant and not by ontological participation not only ignores the Incarnation (which sure seems like a meeting of the human and divine to me), but it also calls the dogma altogether into question. I mean, if its true that God and man only meet covenantally and not ontologically, then it follows that either the Incarnation was not intended to bridge the gap between divinity and humanity, or that the Son only assumed humanity covenantally and not ontologically (which, of course, just mucks up the Incarnation beyond repair). It seems to me, therefore, that while Protestants and Catholics affirm what we celebrate this time of year, the dogma of the Incarnation simply grows better and more healthily in Roman soil than in Genevan.

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