Saintly Thoughts

On the Dialectic of the Incarnation

I wish to suggest something that I have been pondering considering the nature of Christian faith. At the absolute center of the Christian faith lies Christ Himself, mysteriously both “fully God and fully man” as Creedal Christianity teaches. To follow Christ (to be saved, if you will) is to put on the nature of Christ, uniting oneself to Him and to His nature--and this through faith, which will express itself in an ever closer emulation of Christ.  Christians believe (and I should add, I believe, poor sinner that I am) this is a true expression of the actual reality of Christ’s nature; and yet, as a rational concept such a statement is foolishness (at least, if we perceive “Godness” and “humanness” as incommensurate qualities). This foolish statement (which, if Christianity is correct, reflects an actual reality) creates an inherent dialectical tension in the human mind which tries to comprehend it (and this tension exists, I think, whether the individual believer explicitly recognizes it as such or not), for in putting on Christ, one is asked to become both more human and more divine than one is used to.  This tension is reflected in the commandment to love God with all ones heart, mind and soul and to love ones neighbor as oneself–a perceptually dual commandment which in fact represents a self-reinforcing unitive idea; for to love ones neighbor (i.e., any human person who crosses ones path) is to love God, and to love God is to love one’s neighbor.  This is a commandment that can be followed (because the Christian has Christ as his exemplar), but it cannot be understood, and is a very hard thing to do besides (in fact, I suspect Christ is the only one who has managed to fully accomplish it).    

The tendency of this dialectical tension is to resolve itself in one of two directions: either into a secular love of mankind and concern with temporal problems at the expense of the divine, or into a gnostic spiritualism bereft of any real love or concern for our present material existence. I would suggest that the various heresies of the faith are the direct result of humanities’s acquiescence to one or the other of these poles-–poles which can only truly be united in faith in Christ, and cannot (as we now are) be comprehended by the mind. At our present historical moment, we in the West appear to be veering dangerously in the direction of the human without reference to the divine. I would suggest that the resolution of the inherent dialectical tension of the Incarnation into either pole will, for a time at least, appear as a sort of freedom to the distressed soul in that it appears that one can proceed boldly in the direction of a completely rationally coherent system (which, whether we choose humanity or spirituality will eventually lead us away from Christ because–being rationally explicable–we will perceive such a belief as springing from our own mind and from our own power). Or perhaps I should say, in an apparently rationally coherent system, since the apparent irrationality of Christ must be one which is only apparent from this side of eternity (assuming, again, that Christianity is true and gives a true account of the nature of the human person).  And thus, the freedom of this apparent synthesis is a false faith; an Anti-Christ, if you will.  

Then again, maybe I’m incorrect. I know that in my own life I have felt the pull to dissolve the indissoluble into either a godless materialism or into a pure spiritualism and been led astray in both directions without even realizing it.  God forgive me.