Meanwhile, here's an excerpt from the Preface to an evangelical book: John Clark & Marcus Peter Johnson. “The Incarnation of God.” Crossway. iBooks.
God entered the world in and as the man Jesus Christ, such that the meaning of God, man, and the world—the meaning of the Creator, the human creature, and all creation—is given full and final, concrete and definitive, expression in him. Scripture testifies that the fullness of deity dwells bodily in the man Jesus Christ; that he is the visible image of the invisible God; that all things were created by, through, and for him; and that in him all things hold together, so that in everything he might be preeminent (Col. 1:15–18; 2:9). The incarnation of God, therefore, is the supreme mystery at the center of our Christian confession, and no less at the center of all reality. Consequently, all conceptions of reality that fail to see and savor that all things hold together in Christ, and that he is preeminent in all things, can never be anything but abstract conceptions of virtual realities—that is, invariably hollow and ultimately vacuous concepts pulled away from reality.
As I wrote earlier here and said, "A faulty view of the Incarnation and its attendant glorious implications leads us into bondage instead of the grand freedom available because of the incarnation." The enemy clearly grasps the enormous importance of the doctrinal incarnation. Thus, the never-ending attacks on who Jesus really was and is ... now and forever more, simultaneously fully God and fully human.
Much of modern Protestant evangelicalism unfortunately diminishes the Incarnation leading to inevitable consequences as we fail to fully grasp the astonishing truth of what it really means to be human. The distinction made by many Protestants between material reality and a preferred unseen "truer" spiritual reality leads to a kind of gnostic spiritual schizophrenia - i.e.,
- Despite affirming that mankind is created in the image of God (Gen 1:27), there is widespread tragic support for abortion throughout much of Protestant evangelicalism in contrast to the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches where such support is not nearly as large.
- If we truly grasp the significance of the Incarnation, divorce would be far less common instead of widespread. Despite vociferous support for marriage, Protestants have the highest divorce rate of religious groups. (Georgetown’s Center for Applied Research reports that 28% of Roman Catholic marriages end in divorce - much lower than the rate among Protestants. Barna's research agrees.)
- Despite recognizing that God created mankind as male and female (Gen 1:27), bizarre support for the fantasy of "transgenders" exists in significant quarters of Protestantism. No such support exists in the Roman Catholic or Orthodox church to any significant degree.
- An understanding of the Incarnation leads to the honoring of and care for the human body, not its abuse and neglect. A 2006 Purdue University study found that Protestant Christians are by far the heaviest of all religious groups led by the Southern Baptists with a 30% obesity rate compared with Jews at 1%, Buddhists and Hindus at 0.7%. This study prompted the lead researcher, Ken Ferraro to say, “America is becoming a nation of gluttony and obesity and churches are a feeding ground for this problem.” Eleven years later, the problem is only worse.
- Dancing (although presented in Scripture as glorifying to the Creator [2 Sam 6:14; Ecc 3:4; Ps 149:3; Ps 150:4]) is viewed as sin by some Protestants. Ironically, many decry the moderate consumption of wine (Jesus turned the water into wine at the wedding feast and Paul exhorted Timothy to drink a little wine for his stomach ailments) while at the same time heartily indulging in the sin of gluttony.
- Some of the fabulous works of art created during the Renaissance depicting the human body (i.e., Michelangelo's David) evoke uncomfortable feelings instead of inducing inspiration and awe. Instead of eliciting wonder and awe, material reality becomes a sterile list of "do's" and "don'ts".
... when Protestants worship with bare walls and an absence of icons, they are correct that God’s name is “Jesus”. They are correct that Jesus came to deliver them from sin. And they are correct to praise Jesus. But their worship is turned into idolatry, because they misrepresent Him. God is no longer a faceless spirit.
Before God became incarnate in the womb of Mary, He had no body. Images of God were forbidden, because they misrepresented God. But now that God has become incarnate, our worship must reflect this important fact.
Again, while I am a committed Reformed Protestant, I often encounter among my Protestant brothers and sisters a general retreat from visible reality into what is commonly regarded as the invisible “purer and truer" reality ....... which is actually a form of gnosticism. Karl Barth’s high Christology, his primary way of identifying Jesus Christ as the ‘God-Man’ according to the Chalcedon definition, leads Barth to put more emphasis on the virgin birth than you might expect from a Protestant. Whereas most Protestants reduce the incarnation to its utility - i.e., Jesus is born to die, for us - Barth sees the very becoming human of the eternal, preexistent Word is itself God’s revelation. Therefore, says Barth, the incarnation is “the prime mystery” and “our reconciliation”.
Barth’s marveling over the incarnation leads him in a direction that seems more Patristic than Protestant, almost implying that the incarnation itself is salvific. Barth argues that the virgin birth is the Bible’s way of pointing to the mystery and revelation that Jesus is the incarnate God-Man. In other words, the virgin birth is so important to Barth because if the Son (as in, not Mary’s son but the 2nd Person of the Trinity) is the Father’s preexistent, eternal decision to be ‘God-for-us’ in which heaven and earth, finite and infinite, are united then the incarnation is more than just the curtain rising on a drama where all the importance stuff happens in the book of Acts.
Contrary to what many Protestants may think, Heaven ultimately is God dwelling in material reality with mankind (Rev 21:1-3) - not some kind of ethereal spiritual existence. John Clark & Marcus Peter Johnson are correct in their assertion that the Incarnation is indeed the center of all reality. We Protestants could learn from the Roman Catholic and Orthodox perspective on the Incarnation.