Christianity’s Greatest Scandal

Sadly, there are far too many headlines today trumpeting the latest fall of an Evangelical leader. We read these pieces and shake our heads, lamenting the latest scandal. In fact, the very word scandal no longer holds the sense of shock and horror that it once did, because these “scandals” have become all too commonplace.

But this is not a post about the problems in mainstream Evangelicalism today. Rather, I want us to think back to a time when Christianity’s greatest scandal took place.

Annunciation Tapestry by Lawrence OP

There weren’t headlines. But there was preaching, and it was bold. This crazy, upstart group was claiming that a man from Nazareth had actually been God. Of course, this was laughable because God is spirit and perfect and far above anything even conceivably human. He is, in short, transcendent. So to say that God actually took on flesh was ridiculous.

But the preaching kept on, despite persecution and martyrdom, and the number of those who believed in this shocking news grew. In the midst of this growth, people tried to rationalize this news; this man, Jesus, was really only the appearance of a man but was actually just a spirit being moving around. He certainly was not crucified in the flesh because God cannot suffer. But the community of believers, the Church, kept insisting that no, God had really become enfleshed.

Now this is a scandal.

Today, it does not seem like such a big deal though. “Gee whiz, that sure was nice of God to come to earth for me” seems to be the thoughts that run through our mind when we consider the Incarnation. We just breeze over the “God come to earth part” and entirely miss its scandal.

But the Incarnation should hit us like a punch to the stomach. It should leave us gasping for air. It is Christ confronting our very understanding of the world. But most times we don’t respond in this way. We don’t have our minds blown when we think of the Incarnation.

I can’t help but think that it’s because we have lost view of God’s transcendence. Much of “theology” (if it can be called such) in the twentieth and twenty-first century has, in the name of progress, been making God more and more like man. Eventually God becomes just like us except with more power (a modern-day Zeus who might be a tad nicer). If God is like us, the Incarnation is not really that big a deal; it’s not really that big of a leap.

I’m convinced we must recover a sense of shock and awe when it comes to the Incarnation. Only out of a place where we are gasping for air and our minds straining to comprehend God’s mystery can we truly worship. We must recover a sense of the transcendence of God – the one who is holy, perfect, spirit, omniscient, omnipresent, immutable.

God is not like us. He is other, the Holy One. Yet he came in the flesh, in the person of Jesus Christ.

May that truth renew a sense of wonder and drive us to our knees as we worship the One who is beyond our understanding.

I’m curious: how do you think we can restore a sense of God’s transcendence in our day-to-day lives?


5 thoughts on “Christianity’s Greatest Scandal

  1. Take Systematic B and have a brain melting experience? That’s how it seems to be happening for me this semester. Maybe at this point it is about encouraging Christians to consider picking up Barth or Stackhouse or any of the others and engaging in the texts. I think though the Church as a whole needs to change from being “popular leader” driven full of the fluffy or the outrageous and more about service and helping dig that faith ditch deeper not wider to borrow that phrase that gets thrown around in CTC.

    Btw nice blog!

    1. Thanks Jenn! Yes, I definitely think you’re write. Engaging intellectually is certainly a key step but getting our hands dirty, “incarnating” our faith, if you will, is perhaps even more vital. Perhaps it’s in those times when God uses our service that we can recognize what an incredible grace that is – that he would use us! Thanks for these thoughts.

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