The Logic of the Incarnation

I was talking this week to someone who formerly had a socially respectable degree of Christian faith, but seems to have lost it to a socially acceptable degree now. He was patiently alluding, for the benefit of the folks he knew were more robustly religious and needed an analogy to raise their consciousness, to the equal absurdity of all religions:

We laugh at the idea of Joseph Smith finding stainless steel plates and translating them with special glasses and angelic assistance, but a virgin getting pregnant and bearing the Savior of the world seems perfectly logical to us.

Well, actually, no. It doesn’t seem logical at all. The Incarnation of the Second Person of the Holy Trinity is more scandalous than logical, and is at best a major paradox:

Today He Who holds the whole creation in His hand is born of a Virgin.
He Whose essence none can touch is bound in swaddling-clothes as a mortal man.
God, Who in the beginning fashioned the heavens, lies in a manger.
He who rained manna on His people in the wilderness is fed on milk from His mother’s breast.
The Bridegroom of the Church summons the wise men;
the Son of the Virgin accepts their gifts.
We worship Your birth, O Christ.
We worship Your birth, O Christ.
We worship Your birth, O Christ.
Show us also Your Holy Theophany!

Bah! Humbug! That sort of thing offendeds just about everyone who heards of it. God is god and humanity is humanity and never the twain shall meet in actual history. Everybody knows that. We really prefer it that way. There’s probably even something in the Constitution about it. It’s related to the ease with which we “evicted Him from public schools,” isn’t it?

The earliest pan-heresy, Gnosticism, tried in various ways to make Jesus’ incarnation logical – to take off the rough edges. The Proto-heretic Arius cleaned it up by making Jesus Christ a (mere) creature. Thomas Jefferson made his own spiffy little Bible that took out that parts that offended him.

That’s probably how most heresies start: trying to make things logical, as if we understood God well enough to tidy up after Him. (I owe that insight to Fr. Patrick Henry Reardon.)

So if you think that the event we Christians are celebrating today is logical, you’re probably celebrating some distorted and sanitized version. But if you think it’s shocking, you might just be onto something.

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Some succinct standing advice on recurring themes.