Christian Relaunch


The beginning of God's human life has usually been called the incarnation in the West and ensarkosis is the East, meaning that he is thenceforth in flesh ("flesh" in the sense of animal life, specifically human life). But this is quite different from reincarnation (metempsychosis), in which a life force is said to inhabit a body; God does not inhabit humanity, for in his human life he is fully human as well as fully divine. So I think it better to speak of carnification or sarkosis, meaning, not that the mediator enters flesh, but that he becomes flesh, which is exactly what John's Gospel (1:14 egeneto sarx) says he did. (In English, the -osis suffix indicates a process or change, often morbid as in disease names, but not always, and here there is no morbidity.) However, in calling human life "flesh" (sarx) the New Testament focuses on its current hostility to God's purposes, and on the remedial aspect of the Mediator's mission. But God's original plan had no reference to hostililty, so in referring to that plan I think it even better to speak of anthroposis ("becoming human").

The author of Genesis (1:27) calls man an "image of God". The recapitulation was possible because the world, and especially its focus man, was made in the image of God on the model of the Mediator.

Other species of selves (speculation for the benefit of science fiction's readers). Some but not all my conclusions agree with those of C.S.Lewis in Perelandra. Suppose that God were to create another (presumably extra-terrrestrial) species of selves. If that species were included in the same selfkind as man, it would be "covered" by the same anthroposis, and the Mediator's choice of species would be as incidental as his race within that species; should he be (as Christians believe he is) human, man would have a special honour and responsibility, just as the Hebrews did if "of their race is the Christ" (Paul, Romans 9:5). But if that species were of a different selfkind, they would (almost by definition) need a separate anthroposis, which seems unlikely as it implies that the two carnifications of the Mediator would meet, or need to merge in some sense, all very strange. I have failed to find a more elegant word than "selfkind" to express these thoughts, but for most purposes it is convenient to treat humanity as the only show in town, which it probably is. (Predictions of extra-terrrestrial or physically- or digitally-engineered selves are mainly based on the assumption that a hospitable environment is a sufficient condition for the rise of selves, a view I have already rejected.)

Christ's genome. There is some historical evidence that Christ derived his genome entirely from his mother, almost like a clone though in this case the offspring was of opposite sex. (Scoff if you wish, I merely state the historical evidence as I see it. I can easily believe that Mary might initially have lied to cover up a shameful event, even one that occurred without her consent, but I find it hard to believe that she would have persisted in such a lie through all that followed, or that such a fiction could have prevailed at a time when, as we know, the ekklesia was on guard against mythical innovations.) But the evidence is not overwhelming, and I see no reason why the event would need to occur in that way, though it would hardly be surprising for this unique man to arise in this unique way, and it would not surprise me to find that it was necessary or suitable for reasons I have not yet thought of. (P.S. On the other hand, when in Luke 1:34-35 Miriam says she "knows no man", the influence that God's messenger predicted might have taken the form of inspiring her to get out there and meet a suitable man!)

"Christ is said to have entered the world for our salvation, so he is not relevant to creation. This time you really are exceeding the scope of this Section."

It is true that the theory of recapitulation arose in close connection with the recognition of Christ as saviour, but in principle it is independent of it. The Christ event reveals creation as much as salvation, and the real Christian doctrine of creation differs from other doctrines of creation. That Christ entered the world "for our salvation" does not imply that he would have stayed away if we needed no salvation, and the New Testament indicates that his mission to save was an adjunct to his original mission to elevate.

"If there is a sentient body there is also a spiritual body. ... The first man Adam became a sentient being; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit. But it is not spirit that is first but sentience. ... As we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven."

Paul of Tarsus, First Epistle to the Corinthians 15:44-49 (c.55 CE)

"... the mystery of [God's] will, according to his purpose which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth".

Paul of Tarsus, Epistle to the Ephesians 1:9-10 (c.60 CE)

"And that a higher gift than grace should flesh and blood refine:

God's presence and his very self, and essence all-divine."

John Henry Newman, The Dream of Gerontius (1865)

"It is logically impossible for God to become a man. It is like confusing an author with a character in his story."

The author-story analogy has limitations. There is no exact analogy for God's relationship with the world. I see no grounds for preconceptions on this point, and I see no plausible alternative account of man's destiny.

Back to Our Proper Goal.