Saturday, March 25, 2023

Is the denial of the incarnation the root of all heresy?

Someone smarter than I once said to me that all heresy is rooted in a denial of the incarnation.  While I fear exaggeration often precludes the very clarity it seeks to provide, this is one case in which the statement is truth.  All heresy is rooted in a denial of the incarnation.  So, on this Annunciation of Our Lord day, it is good to read reflect upon the full measure of our incarnational theology.

I was reading in Bo Giertz the other day:  (Christ's Church)

God is in our midst!  Just as Jesus once entered the world as God's outstretched hand, as a visible revelation of God's invisible being, and as an audible message of that which no ear has heard, so God's hand is still stretched out at the baptismal font and the communion rails, and so the Word still sounds, not as a mechanical repetition of what the Master once said but as continually repeated message from the mouth of our Savior... It is the same way with the sacraments.  They are not symbols and metaphors but Christ's way of to deal with us today, just as real and tangible as He once dealt with people on the fields of Galilee and the streets in Capernaum...

The miracle that took place in the incarnation when the Word became flesh continues in the church and the sacraments. He who does not understand the incarnation will not understand the sacraments and he who does not understand the sacraments will not understand what Christ has done for us... Living and genuine Christianity is in its innermost essence faith in the incarnation and the atonement.  It is in its innermost essence sacramental... 
Bo Giertz certainly has hit the nail on the head.  Failure to acknowledge the incarnation is the seedbed to disavowing the sacramental presence of Christ in the means of grace.  You cannot confess the incarnation and reject the Sacraments (means of grace).  They go hand in hand.  One cannot exist without the other and the other defines the first.

It is meaningless to confess God's presence unless you can confess that presence HERE in baptismal water, in absolution's voice, in bread and wine.  To put it as I often do when teaching parents, stop pointing to the sky when you teach your children where God is and point instead to the Word and Sacraments, for these are the places where God has attached Himself, made Himself present and available for us.  We do not need a God out there.  We need a located God -- in the incarnation and in the means of grace (sacraments).  We are not imposing this upon God but He has bound Himself to these external forms out of love for us and to deliver to us the full measure of what Christ accomplished for us and our salvation.  Our God has come to us in flesh and blood, like us in every way except sin, and it began with the visit of an archangel, the consent of a virgin, and a womb filled with the Son of God.  Our God is not subject to our imagination but located in the flesh of the Virgin by the Holy Spirit and in the Word and Sacraments where He makes Himself known to us and delivers to us the fruits of His obedient life, His life-giving death, and His death defying resurrection.

1 comment:

Janis Williams said...

How much more comforting to go to church (Divine Service) and know exactly where our Lord is for us. As an evangelical one could never be sure exactly where to find Jesus. Was He “up there,” as you say, was He in the perfect will for us (which we had to worry about getting correct), was He lurking in some corner experience we might stumble upon? No, He IS HERE, where He has promised to be. I think it will be an embarrassing day for many pastors and leaders who constantly pointed to a Jesus who was hiding rather than offering His comfort, grace and mercy so often as we need.