The Relationship Between Incarnation and Creation
Incarnation and creation are some of the most discussed subjects in the field of theology and religion. This is a subject area in which God as a source of inspiration, man, and the world the actual nature of the relationship exists between different theologies. Meanwhile creation comes in the mind when we think of the old earth and the new earth. Old earth in a sense states that God created it and then filled it with animals and plants. Meanwhile, the new earth is all about the new creation when Jesus became incarnate because of our relationship with God.
In this essay, the intention is to try and find out how incarnation is related to creation in the biblical doctrines. What really is the incarnation and how does it come out clearly from the biblical point of view. What is creation which we see in the opening books of the bible and how is it related to the birth of Jesus Christ. This paper is bound to define the terms appropriately while looking at the relationship between incarnation and creation. Books in focus will be by T. F. Torrance who based his research on Christian theology.
According to Gunther Pratz in his paper the relationship between incarnation and atonement in the theology, Thomas Torrance believed that Niceno-constantinople creed with its central place accorded to Jesus Christ seemed to be the prime and most valid starting point for discussion in Christology . The Greek patristic theology will be our concern in this paper. The word incarnation was adopted during the 12th century from the Norman-French, which in turn had taken the word over from the Latin ‘incarnatio’ .
This word ‘incarnatio’ corresponds to the Greek sarkosis or ensarkosis from the gospel according to John 1:14 and the word was made flesh. Surely this mystery lies beyond human investigation and are believed on the strength of God’s word. The word was in place and the word became man is the biblical mystery which the gospel according John explains vividly. Torrance seems to share the view as the Greek Fathers and their non-dualistic theology in which incarnation and atonement are very inseparable. Christ is the beginning ‘The Alpha’, ‘The first’.
His person is itself the source of creation. Just as the word as indicated in the Gospel according to John that the word became flesh, it is indeed true that Jesus is eternally other from the Father and the foundation for all else that is other than Him. The bible in Genesis does talk about God in plural meaning He the triune God existed before, during creation and after creation and hence the incarnation. God simply uses the word WE without telling it openly of who he is with at the time of creation.
But when finally He becomes flesh, then it becomes truth that He was and his word has become flesh. It is therefore true to say that Christ is nature and forever from the Father in the spirit. This shows that the spreading of goodness of the triune God, whose being is outwardly curled. God became flesh simply because he wanted to reveal himself to the sinful nature of man. He wanted man to realize that he was the truth to believe in at all times in-order to be saved.
The incarnated God who is the son would be the mediator between God and men, the man being Christ Jesus who gave himself to liberate man from sin and to renew the broken relationship of man with God. Karl Barth writes, “If we understand eternity as pre-time – and we must understand in this way too – we have to recognize that eternity itself bears the name Jesus Christ. ”  Torrance believes that this relational coherence and oneness of the Father and the Son in the Spirit of God as fundamental to knowing God for who He truly is .
He writes in The Trinitarian Faith, ‘Thus, they (the Nicene fathers) rejected any idea that the Son is from a being other than God, or that he is Son of God only through partaking of God, and stated quite definitely and unambiguously that the Son is of the very being of God and is God in precisely the same sense in which the Father is God, for he is uniquely and completely one with him . While looking at this issue, I noticed that Athanasius also believed in the incarnation. He looks at it from the point of the creeds which drew much attention in the early years of the world.
Torrance points out with Athanasius that this shows a dual movement from God to humanity and from humanity to God which is concerned in the mediation of Christ Jesus. The gospel is very clear that Christ is really God having become human like. Jesus Christ is God’s act which is God acting personally and immediately as man through him and thus at once in a celestial and in person manner. Torrance goes on to say that even though Jesus comes as human being, he does not indeed combine the two realities of being divine and at the same time being human.
But he admits that we must rather think of Christ as God coming to us as human. It is therefore true to say that God the creator has come to His own creation as one of the creatures he has made but at the same time remains the creator, the creating and underneath force behind everything. Yet I wish to make it clear that even though he came down as one of the creatures, he never stopped being divine. Because of whom Jesus is and what He mediates is one and the same, we must be aware that He is not just an agent of that mediation to us but is the mediator of a divine revelation and reunion.
He is in his own personal identity and reality. It is because of this that the gospel witnesses to us that Jesus Christ does not just come to us by bearing the word of God but as being the word of God. Torrance believes that if we agree to separate the Person and the word or work of Christ Jesus, our way of appreciating the gospel will diminish and finally break down at the end. I have taken the pain of exploring what incarnation could be before taking the issues about creation which would actually be the beginning of my paper.
This I did because I believe that incarnation is the core of Christian beliefs and the center of many discussions. Torrance who follows the lead of Athanasius, understands the atoning redemption to happen within the meditorial life and Person of the incarnate Christ Jesus. Athanasius believes that Jesus Christ came to save the whole human being, body and soul including human affections and mind, that Jesus Christ, the incarnate son of God, came to redeem by becoming fully human being himself which in the end effected our salvation in and through the very humanity he appropriated from us.
So God becoming human being was for a reason that the broken relationship be once again be mended. He has made our sin and death his own that we may partake of his divine life and righteousness. However it is true to say that if everything He did including appropriating from us our body and soul making them his own were incomplete and inferior, then everything that Christ did by offering himself as a sacrifice for our sake would be meaningless.
“We can see that, like the Greek Fathers, Torrance closely links the personal and the ontological in his account of the incarnational redemption. ” By making himself one with us and through the incarnation, Jesus Christ did not just correct our human nature to himself but indeed took our lost state which is headed for conviction and death. His main intention was to take our place of sin and substitute it by discharging our debts and also by presenting Himself in atoning sacrifice to God for us.
He hence crushed the power of sin and its strongholds in death and redeemed man from its control. Torrance in his on conviction and the convictions of the Greek fathers insisted that incarnation and atonement have to be thought together in terms of their intrinsic coherence in the divine-human Person of the mediator. May I now turn to the discussion on creation which is superbly the basis of our being here on earth. Without creation, we cannot discuss incarnation and without incarnation we may not have power to discuss atonement that I have touched on shallowly.
Creation is hence not a floating reality which has no ground but something beginning in the son, crafted by Him, joins together in Him and headed towards Him as His inheritance. While God’s being reaches out towards the other which is simultaneously a being that draws the other in bonds of love. Some theories about the making of the universe and the creation of all things have emerged over the years. For example some people say that all things were self-originated and disorganized. Among the people are Epicureans who deny that there was a mind behind all this.
This is very opposite to all experiences which may include their existence. For if everything came the way they say, then everything would be in one form and without distinction. Others take the view of Plato who said that God made everything out of pre-existence and uncreated matter, just as carpenter makes things only out of wood that already exists. The Gnostics simply closed their eyes to the obvious meaning of scripture. An example is when God reminded the Jews of the statement in Genesis, “He who created them in the beginning made male and female and because of that they should leave their parents and cleave to one another.
Gen. 2:23ff. What therefore God has put together let no man separate. The gospel according to St. John says that “All things became by Him and without Him came nothing into being. ” How then can the artificer be different other than the Father of Christ? There is need to understand that by faith the world s were framed by the word of God so that the things we see did not come into being out of things that had previously appeared . Creation being the genesis of everything on earth gives the opening connotation that everything begun from then.
The way of life and how man was given the power of dominion over all the creatures of the earth is the source of our base of argument. Biblical creation in Genesis, tells us how God did his things. One would ask if it is true that the six days of creation was the normal counting days we believe in today. But the Bible is very straight in stating to us that God’s time is not our time. The bible may have meant that one thousand years represented one day. Creation in the book of Genesis can be hence being termed as both physical and spiritual.
The relationship between incarnation and creation comes in place on several occasions. They are closely intertwined and cannot be separated easily. Incarnation is the new creation when God becomes incarnate. The word becomes flesh and so a new beginning for the walk of life. God comes in flesh to die for the sins of the world and hence making the way for new creation. Incarnation opens the doors to the new creation which is the formation of the Kingdom of God. Man becomes a child of God when he surrenders to follow Christ in His fullness.
God fulfills his new covenant with man by becoming incarnate to redeem man from the bondage of sin. The old covenant was with Abraham when He called him to go to the land of promise. This does not end here but brings clearly what God wanted us to go through when He brings out the Israelites from slavery in Egypt through Moses. But this does end here; the presence of Jesus Christ is felt even at the time of Babylon’s opposition to God. The presence of God in every walk of life right from the beginning brings a clear understanding of I AM sayings in the New Testament.
When we are face to face with Jesus Christ when reading the bible, we are actually face to face with God. This means that the triune God or the trinity of God is the basis on which the Christian faith is embedded upon. The I AM sayings from the gospel according is the authority God asserts when He speaks to us to show us that He is in Jesus Christ and in Christ He lives and dwells. These sayings are as a result of His need that we know vividly about his coming and how He lived in our midst. The story does not end here but gives an account of how he died ad later resurrected.
Whilst it is true to say that this sayings were mystery, they were indeed the truth that God is Who He was and Who HE is now and forever. The incarnation makes it clear that He is indeed Lord of Lords. John McKenna says “The eternity of the world and the temporal nature of our kind at the center of the cosmos was an enigma to be resolved by learning to cavort with the heavenly and changeless forms, by leaving the morass of the temporal and saving all appearances in the eternity of a creator’s heavens”. This forms the basis of Messianic hope.
He is indeed the light of the world during the time in the Old Testament but also during the time in the New Testament where the bible gives the background of where Jesus is coming from. In the gospel according to Matthews, the opening of the text begins by explaining the ancestors of Jesus. This implies that God brings us the His history to help us know of the new creation or the new Adam. Jesus comes from the house of David and of Abraham. Christ confronts the Jews his people because he comes from within and so he knows the way of life here.
This makes it easy for him to talk them from their perspective without fear. The bible goes on to say in various texts for instance in the letter of Paul to Corinthians that in 2 Corinthians 4:4-6 we read: The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers, so that they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who said ‘Let light shine out of darkness.
Made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. His becomes the light that shines in the world to bring His glory. He is the beginning, the ‘Alpha’ and has lived now and shall live forever ‘Omega’. He is the almighty at all costs and has the key to every door. Apocalyptic text in the bible which is Revelation draws it statements from the fact that there will be neither sun nor moon in the city of God since it does not need them.
Michael Green, The Truth of God Incarnate (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1977), ed. , pp. 36-39.
Ibid, pp. 39-41.
Clement of Alexandria, toward the close of the 2nd cent. A. D. cites diverse views concerning the date of Christ’s birth among early churchmen (Stromata, Bk. 1, Ch. 21).
Leon Morris, The Gospel According To John, (Eerdmans, 1971), p. 365, 473-4.
Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, II. 1, p. 622.
T. F. Torrance, The Christian Doctrine of God, One Being, Three Persons (T & T Clark, 1996), pp. 118-127.