Monday, 23 March 2009

Incarnation: Glorious

Thanks to everyone who commented on my Trinity post.

In reading and reflecting on the comments I have realised that it is deficient to write about Trinity without including Incarnation. Or, put another way, I have confused Trinity and Incarnation.

In the Trinity post I referred to a song with a line that states that Jesus gave up his glorious throne. I have not found a verse in Scripture that explicitly states this same idea. What I have been been reminded of today is Wesley's thought: "He left his Father's throne above,- So free, so infinite his grace- Emptied himself of all but love-"

My problem with the two songs is as much a problem of christology as it is theology.

In the Incarnation (John 1:14, Phil 2:5-11), God the Son revealed another form of God's glory (John 13:31,32; 17:1-5). In coming from the Father the Word's "throne" moved with him and he was "enthroned" as king by being lifted up on the cross. The Post-Reformation Reformed tradition understood this in terms of a fairly well developed and subtle understanding of Christ the Mediator, the Chalcedonian God/Man (see e.g. WCF VIII). In trinitarian terms God the Son never gave up his throne. Christ the Mediator was lifted up as the Mediator King over all of God's creation. He was exalted in the heavenly realm. And he will hand over a new kingdom to God the Father (1Cor15:24).

Palm Sunday is coming up... sermon fodder for you all.


JohnGreenview said...

Thanks for thoughts Dave.

Think you are probably right. John's gospel which you quote seems to see different forms of Christ's glory. We see his 'essential or intrinsic glory, the glory of eternal majesty' in the term 'the glory that I had with you before the word was'. (Jn 17:5 There is the moral glory of deity' that the disciples beheld 'the glory of the only son of the father'(Jn 1:14) and there is an 'acquired glory or gained glory, the glory of mediator, the God-Man, expressed in such terms as, 'glorify your son....for you have given him authority (Jn 17:1,2 cf v10,24 Phil 2). All this from one who said, 'I do not seek my own glory but another seeks it' (Jn 8:50) - because he humbled himself the father will exalt him and give him a name that is above every name...

We by faith see in the incarnate humbled Jesus the glory of the enthroned King - Isaiah saw jesus glory and spoke of hism (Jn 12:41) - a reference I think to Isaiah 6 seeing the Lord 'high and lifted up...'

By faith too we see the glorified Jesus and as we behold his face are transformed from one degree of glory into another. We become like what we worship.

Nick Mackison said...

Shed, a peach of a post.

Danny said...

Mmm still not completely convinced... its a bit too neat for me. How does this line of thinking go with Christ crying "my God my God why have you forsaken me" and with his being being dead and buried... and descended into hell... and rising again on the third day?

David Shedden said...

All part of the glory Danny. What exactly is the problem you see?

JohnGreenview said...

In tension with incarnation we must remember that in an atemporal sense 'in him all things hold together' (Col 1)and he'upholds all things by the spoken word of his power'. These are divine functions never relinquished. In this sense at least he never gave up authority - his throne. Yet he did give up 'enthronement' in the sense of the majesty of deity that he had 'with the father before the world began'. Being 'in the form of God' he took 'the form of a servant'.

As 'God the Son' he ran the world from the virgin's womb. This is mystery before which we worship and into which we cannot delve, is it not?

Danny said...

I understand that Jesus always had authority (as John says above) this is very scriptural, but I have a problem with the more narrow Johannine view of Jesus as being 'in the world but not of it' and your argument that its "all part of the glory" doesn't work for me. Its too neat.

Jesus did leave his kingly throne behind (although it was still his) and he revealed a different kind of power and glory... which reaches its pinnacle on the cross. The mystery for me is what happens next... the physical death ... the descent to hell (or however we understand that) causes a rupture in the very heart of the Godhead. It is a paradox beyond our understanding that the Lord of life lies dead and buried. I don't see that as glory more as the ultimate expression of all that he was prepared to relinquish for fallen humanity. At this point (dead in the grave) Jesus is surely further from his kingly throne than we can ever comprehend? And that is why I have no problem with the hymn lines you quote... as they don't even begin to scratch the surface of what Jesus was prepare to relinquish for us.

The resurrection glory tends to overwhelm what came before it... suffering, cross, death, grave. saying it is all glory dilutes (for me anyway) the horror... and the cost of my salvation.

But this is just my interpretation and the discussions have been fascinating as we approach Holy Week.

JohnGreenview said...


I would not wish to diminish in the slightest the point you are making. I think it is a vital point. After all 'he humbled himself...even to death on a cross'. Surely, however, John's point (that is John the Apostle) is that that point of extreme self-humbling was also in a paradoxical way the moment when the glory of God shone at its brightest.

God's glory at the cross was strength in weakness, wisdom in foolishness, conquering through sacrifice; or if you like, reigning through vanquishment.

Is this not the paradox of the words, 'I if I be lifted up will draw all men to me'. We expect 'lifted up' to be an exaltation to Kingship and the rallying point of a Warrior-King. However, the 'lifted-up' was on a cross. It became the place where in this paradoxical sense his glory shines brightest. Is it not this Jesus means when he says in Jn 17:1,2...'the hour is come. Glorify your son that the son may glorify you.'

Thus the rallying point of the gospel is the paradoxical, ironic throne of the cross rather than the literal throne of his exaltation.

Whatever the answer, like you Danny, I have enjoyed our reflections.