The Incarnation: God Became Man?
by Don Sena
When scrutinized objectively, the incarnation of Jesus Christ becomes inconceivable. The pun implied by this statement is relevant in the context of the numerous contradictions generated in the promulgation of this fundamental fallacy.
While Christ was (and is) the Son of God on his Father's side, he had a true parentage through Mary on his mother's side; indeed, it is by way of Mary that he is descended from David. Accordingly, Christ could only have been conceived by means of an egg cell from Mary which was then miraculously fertilized by creation of a sperm cell through the agency of the Holy Spirit (Lk 1: 35).
“ ... The Holy Spirit will come upon you [Mary] and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; hence, the holy offspring to be born will be called ‘Son of God’.”
This action could only have taken place at conception, when egg met sperm. If it had happened at implantation, say, then Mary would only have been a surrogate mother, not an actual bio-parent, and Christ would not have been a true biological descendent of David. The fact that Christ has any ancestral heritage through Mary requires that he began at conception, not at implantation. The (supposedly) preexistent Christ did not metamorphose into a human embryo.
This action of God’s Spirit, as correctly understood, creates a paradox for those entertaining the well-established view of God as a triad (or trinity) of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. It is that member of this three-person construct whose name is the Father whom Christ also names as his own father; he never acknowledges the Holy Spirit as his father.
Classical trinitarianism is nonetheless able to endure this self-contained contradiction by reckoning the trinity as inherently beyond human understanding -- for, after all, God consists of this trinity. Thus, we have what the Catholics call “the Mystery of the Blessed Trinity.” No one can quite figure it out, while everyone must accept it -- for God is beyond human understanding, anyway.
However, God is not known to be the author of confusion, particularly in the conduct of his sacred assembly (1 Cor 14: 33). All the more so will this same God never contradict himself in any revealed truth, especially that truth which reveals his own nature. It is axiomatic of God that he engages in neither contradiction nor deception.
The reality is that the Holy Spirit in the Greek text (“to pneuma hagion”) is of the neuter gender, and all pronouns referring back to it are likewise neuter. In other words, they say “it”: “it,” the mind and power of God, a neuter entity that denotes an influence he is able to exert from a distance. Thus, there is no actual distinction in persons between the Holy Spirit of God and God himself. The Spirit of God is a powerful attribute of God, but not a distinct person in any real sense. For former trinitarians, this realization resulted in a subtraction of three minus one, leaving just two.
Now, those who have held to the open two-person God-Family model of God have also held that a pre-existent Christ was actually the self-existent YAHWEH of the Old Testament who spoke through the prophets. Unwittingly or otherwise, they are putting forth the notion that this same self-existent YAHWEH and Creator was supernaturally transformed into a fleshly organism partly derived from the body of a mere human. Thus the Creator God somehow devolves into the physical offspring of what he himself had earlier created.
The typical Trinitarian who also accepts the body-soul dualism inherited from the ancient Greeks does not have to wrestle with this problem of belief. The one who assumes the immortal soul can always assume, for want of a better explanation, that the preexistent Christ simply became the soul of the physical Christ. Catholics, in particular, are taught to believe that, while Christ’s body lay lifeless in the tomb, Christ himself – his soul, supposedly – escorted the prophets and patriarchs from the abyss into heaven.
“It was in the spirit also that he went to preach to the spirits in prison” (1 Pt 3: 19).
In the absence of immortal-soul belief, it is left to the Christian to realize that Mary became the mother of the fleshly son of the living God, not the mother of the living God made flesh. To assume the latter is to suppose that God acquired a human parent along the way to redeeming mankind. To confess the former is to confess Christ as the begotten Son of God the Father, who began in the flesh and sacrificed flesh and blood for all mankind.
Isaiah 53 successfully prophesied the awfully burdensome and severe ordeal that a Savior would willingly endure for the sake of humanity. It surely did not predestine his automatic submission to such maltreatment, just as it did not require that he be conceived as an automaton -- preprogrammed (like a robot) to respond to encoded instructions -- with no exercise of free moral agency.
The text of Jn 8:44 shows that Christ faulted severely the intellectual dishonesty of the pharisees concerning his actual relationship to God his Father. Indeed, they had already contrived their reasons for seeking his elimination:
"The reason why the Jews were even more determined to kill him was that he was not only breaking the Sabbath but, worse still, was speaking of God as his own Father, thereby making himself God's equal" (Jn 5: 18).
Christ, however, no more assumed equality with God his Father than he broke the Sabbath, as the pharisees mendaciously accused him of doing (in Jn 5: 1 - 17). The first Adam, created by direct, divine fiat, did presume such an equality, as he was prompted to do so in Gen 3: 5. The second (and last) Adam did not:
"Let this disposition be in you as was in Christ Jesus, who, while in the form of God, did not consider usurping to himself a position of equality with God. Rather, he emptied himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. He was known to be of human estate, and it was thus that he humbled himself, obediently accepting even death, death on a stake" (Phil 2: 5 - 8).
It is clear that he emptied himself in taking the form of a slave, not in becoming human. Further, he humbled himself in acquiescing to the accusations that led to his death, not in relinquishing a preexistent status of God. (Let it be noted that the New King James rendition of Phil 2: 6 is not correct.)
Christ is specifically designated the "last Adam" in 1 Cor 15: 45:
"Scripture has it that Adam, the first man, became a living soul: the last Adam has become a life-giving Spirit."
What the two men had in common (such that each would be indentified as an “Adam”) is that both were directly created by God, very nearly ex nihilo -- the first from the dirt of the ground, the second (and last) from a sperm cell supplied by the Father to fertilize an egg cell from Mary, his mother.
Because this second Adam fulfilled perfectly the prophecy of Is: 53 and never deviated from the will of his Father, the second Adam is also the last Adam, the “life-giving Spirit” of 1 Cor 15: 45.
Neither can it be realized how meaningful it actually was for Christ to have yielded himself to the will of the Father in every instance if it is not also realized that he retained the ability throughout to succumb to any or all of Satan's many enticements (Mt 4: 1 - 11; Lk 4: 1 - 13; 1 Jn 2: 15 - 17). The truly heroic quality of his flawless conduct can only be appreciated in terms of a series of conscientiously made choices which pleased his Father, the eternal God, each and every time.
“Indeed, we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness, but one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet never sinned” (Heb 4: 15).
No one can be tempted to do anything he is not capable of doing. Likewise, Christ, as much as he was tempted, was never tempted to do anything he could not have elected to do. Yet Christ was not only tempted, but tempted in every way that we are.
It should be noted, too, that Is 53 does not specify an "only-begotten son." It just happens that God's first and only son did fulfill this Isaiah prophecy -- devotedly, awesomely and triumphantly. Yet, he just might not have succeeded as he did.
The compulsive tendency in binitarian circles has been to evade any serious contemplation of the hypothetical consequences of personal failure on the part of Christ; indeed, had he faltered, he could not have been raised to immortal spirit life. Binitarianism, by its nature, produces the conundrum that there existed the potential extinction of the true God, himself -- the very One who had existed eternally -- or, that God could have destroyed God. The typical escape has been to insist that Christ simply was not going to fail, quite as if he had been a hard-wired spirit-being turned flesh -- the ultimate in artificial intelligence -- always and everywhere making the optimal decision among all possible alternatives.
Unitary monotheism presents no such conflict of belief. Had Christ chosen amiss, it would have been he, not God, who would have fallen short of eternal life. God would still have been free to beget a second Son, granting him the same spiritual resources that he had bestowed upon the first. This second son would then have been a third “Adam.” (Of course, there was never any third Adam.)
Absent the concept of an immortal soul, the notion of incarnation becomes untenable, as we review the disposition of the rebellious angels at the end of the millennial period of Rev 20.. These beings will be sequestered permanently from the entire sea of humanity that will appear in the second resurrection, never again able to lead astray a single individual created in God’s image. Quite remarkably, they will not, however, be destroyed, as will be those who “sin willfully after receiving the truth” (Heb 6: 4 – 8; 10: 26; 2 Pt 2: 20 – 22), having yielded themselves to these adversaries of God and of Christ.
The reason Satan and his minions will not be destroyed is that they were created as angelic beings, permanent and incapable of death. If incarnation of a pre-existing spirit being were possible, then certainly an angelic being could be incarnated as a fleshly creature of some sort. An angel of Satan, in particular, could be made to assume flesh and then allowed (or caused) to die, unresurrected and forever extinguished for all time.
Were it possible to eliminate Satan and his followers by forcing them to become fleshly beings, God would do so. It is, of course, not possible. All the more so was it never possible for the God of the Old Testament, who existed eternally, temporarily to surrender his immortality and become mortal flesh, subject to death.
Christ was begotten of God (Jn1:14, 18; 3: 16, 18) by the fusion of a (created) sperm cell from that one God with an egg cell from Mary. He was not transformed from one type of being to another. He is unique in the history of mankind in having had only one human parent, and the other the Living God himself.