Merry Christmas to all! In the midst of the presents, feasting, and celebrations, I hope this brief reflection on the mystery of Christ’s nature will fuel your own contemplations of the true reason for the Christmas season.
The doctrine of the Incarnation (God in the flesh) stands at the very heart of historic Christianity and is celebrated around the world at Christmastime (known in the church calendar as the Advent season). This biblically derived doctrine teaches that the eternal Word, the second person of the Trinity, took unto himself a human nature and became man without in any way diminishing his deity (John 1:1, 14, 18; Philippians 2:5–6; Colossians 2:9; 1 John 4:1–3). Christian orthodoxy therefore views Jesus Christ as a single person who nevertheless possesses both a divine and human nature. Those two natures (divine and human) find their union in the person of Christ (called the hypostatic union). This theological understanding of the Incarnation led the ancient Christians to refer to Jesus as the theanthropos (Greek: the “God-man”).
Incarnation in Light of the Imago Dei
Undoubtedly the Incarnation doctrine involves much divine mystery. When it defined the doctrine officially, the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) didn’t attempt to explain just how the two natures that Christ possessed were unified with his personhood. But it seems biblically correct to infer that humankind’s creation in the image of God (Genesis 1:26–27) at least anticipated the Incarnation. Thus it would appear that by making humankind in his divine image, God then also made it possible for himself to take a human nature. In this way, the imago Dei status of human beings foreshadows and facilitates the Incarnation. Theologian Anthony Hoekema asserts, “it was only because man had been created in the image of God that the Second Person of the Trinity could assume human nature.”1 In other words, God made humans in his image because, all along, he planned to become one at the Incarnation in order to redeem lost sinners (2 Timothy 1:9–10).
So in some sense, though still enigmatic and beyond full human comprehension, the human nature of Christ was specially adapted via the imago Dei to accommodate the divine nature. Thus Jesus was fully God and fully man but remained a single person.
I hope identifying this connection between the doctrines of creation and the Incarnation will provoke Christians to both think of and be grateful for the great and deeply mysterious truth-claim that stands at the very heart of Christmas.
For more on the Christian doctrine of the Incarnation, see chapter 9 of my book Without a Doubt.
1. Anthony A. Hoekema, Created in God’s Image (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1986), 22.
This week on Reflections I offer up a review of my new book by Christian apologist Melissa Travis, creator of the blog Hard-Core Christianity:
Melissa was a student of mine a few years ago in Biola University’s graduate program in apologetics. She is an engaging, thoughtful speaker and writer. I appreciate her thorough and gracious review of my new book.
There are six important apologetics-related factors that can be identified as paving the way for Augustine’s conversion to Christianity.1 Augustine would later credit the sovereign grace of God’s work behind the scenes of his life as the source of these factors. From these six aspects, we can draw a broad apologetics model for how God, through His grace, prepares people for faith. Continue reading
Excerpted from chapters 9 and 10 of my new book, 7 Truths That Changed the World, now available at shop.reasons.org.
“God helps those who help themselves.”
“God knows I’m only human.”
“I’m trying my best; God will understand.” Continue reading
Historic Christianity contains numerous beliefs that are theologically and philosophically volatile (in the best sense of the term). These powerful truth-claims have transformed the church and even turned the world upside down. My new book, 7 Truths that Changed the World, explores seven of historic Christianity’s dangerous ideas. The following 10 points give a brief overview of what I consider to be the Christian faith’s most dangerous idea. Continue reading
Posted in Bible, Christianity, Christianity's Dangerous Ideas, Doctrine, Jesus Christ, Resurrection, Theology
Tagged Christ, dangerous ideas, Easter, Messiah, resurrection of Jesus
Excerpted from “If Christ Has Not Been Raised: Reasoning through the Resurrection”
Jesus Christ’s bodily resurrection from the dead three days after His execution pumps the heart of the Christian gospel (doctrine) and is Christianity’s central supporting fact (apologetics). The truth of Christianity uniquely stands or falls on Christ’s resurrection. Because of this, the New Testament accounts of Christ’s resurrection warrant careful analysis and reflection. Continue reading
For the last several weeks, I’ve been reflecting on French thinker Blaise Pascal (1623–1662). I’ve discussed his life, his achievements in science and mathematics, and his conversion to Christianity and work as an apologist. Though Pascal lived centuries ago, I believe his writings on theology and apologetics remain important for Christians of the twenty-first century. Continue reading
When my oldest child, Sarah (now 24 years old), was a toddler she loved to push the buttons on the keyboard of my very first computer. While I was working on the computer, she would come up to me and ask: “Daddy, push one button?” I would acquiesce to her wishes and then watch as her little fingers pecked away at the keys. Continue reading
In addition to blog posts, I also address Christian worldview issues and critical thinking on a couple of RTB podcasts. Straight Thinking, my primary podcast, highlights the importance of the life of the Christian mind. I also make appearances with my fellow RTB scholars on I Didn’t Know That!, where we offer unscripted answers to listener questions.
Here are some of the latest episodes from both podcasts.
- “The Devil’s Weapon, Parts 1 and 2” — In this series I discuss two particularly effective devices (as outlined by mathematician Blaise Pascal) for luring people away from dealing with life’s big questions and, thus, from God. Part 1 deals with indifference to life’s big questions, which Pascal believed is worse than outright hostility to religion. Part 2 addresses distraction or preoccupation. Even good things can distract us from dealing with issues of life and death. (For more on Pascal, listen to my four-part series on his life and theology.)
- “The Problem of Doubt, Parts 1 and 2” — Christians often feel ashamed for questioning their faith. But is doubt necessarily a bad thing? In this series, I explore various types of doubt and how to deal with them in an attempt to dispel misconceptions about believers’ struggles with doubt.
I Didn’t Know That!
- November 15, 2011 episode with Jeff Zweerink — A listener’s question sparks a look at the ways people receive salvation in Christ: is it necessary to hear the Gospel or can a person be saved through the general revelation of nature? Other topics for this episode include Lorentzian relativity, extrabiblical references to Job, and weird animal husbandry practices described in Genesis.
- November 22, 2011 episode with Fazale Rana — Fuz and I dig deep into that perennial issue: the problem of evil and why God doesn’t stop bad things from happening to people. Other topics include the mind-brain relationship, forgiveness in the Old Testament, and angels.
- November 29, 2011 episode with Fazale Rana and Jeff Zweerink — Being the “token Calvinist” at RTB, I take on a question about how a sincere Christian can fall away from their faith and if they can lose their salvation. Other topics include archaeological evidence for long life spans, looking into the past through astronomy, and precursors to the Cambrian explosion.
If you want to submit a question for I Didn’t Know That! or comment on Straight Thinking, email email@example.com. Please remember to keep your inquiries succinct.
Posted in Blaise Pascal, Doctrine, Faith, Podcasts & Videos, Salvation, Theology
Tagged distraction, doubt, I Didn't Know That, indifference, Pascal, podcast review, problem of evil, salvation, Straight Thinking
This three-part article series was originally a talk given at the Questions on Doctrine 50th Anniversary Conference at Andrews University, Berrien Springs, MI (October 24–27, 2007).
For the last two weeks I’ve been discussing Seventh-day Adventism. Part 1 highlighted my own experiences in studying Adventism, particularly the influence of counter-cult specialist and personal friend Dr. Walter Martin and his call for Adventism to be included in the Christian body. Part 2 discussed the changes in Adventism’s theology and how they distinguish it from cults like Mormonism, Christian Science, and Jehovah’s Witnesses. Continue reading
Posted in Controversies, Doctrine, Seventh-day Adventism, Walter Martin
Tagged adventism, controversy, debate, doctrine, Dr. Walter Martin, Ellen G. White, evangelical, heretical, issue, orthodox