This also applies to Anglican theology!
Also, it is Advent, so a good seasonal time to talk about incarnation :)
Here, on this blog, a particular interest is in what theology means for our life in the world. So an "upstream" interest in the incarnation is simultaneously a "downstream" interest in working out how we live as Christians, as Anglican-shaped Christians.
Might that mean, I ask here, since the "downstream" interest is in life in the 21st century situation and not in the 1st century situation, that we should think about what the incarnation might involve in this century?
That is, what kind of man would Jesus be if he were incarnated in (say) 21st century Aotearoa New Zealand? What would he do and say? When asked about the controversial issues of today, how would he respond?
Thinking this way is not idle speculation. The church is "the body of Christ" so the incarnate God actually dwells in the world today and receives those questions and gives responsive answers. But it is a little complicated because the church often does not speak with one voice out of the one body. Might we discern that one voice if we reflected carefully on "what would Jesus do and say" today?
That careful reflection would need to start with the actual record of the incarnate Jesus (the gospels) and the first expression of the "body of Christ" developing that record as it engaged in a "new situation" (the epistles). But it would not stop there. It would always be worth asking, "If Jesus were walking the streets and byways of Aotearoa New Zealand, what would he say when we asked him questions, when we called on him to offer wisdom and insight on issues of our day, as he did in the first century?"
An associated question could be, "As we work on what it means to be followers of Jesus in 21st century society, what would be an approach to being church(-in-the-world) which both accords with the epistles and does not bring the gospel into disrepute (Titus 2:5b)?"
Easy questions to ask; harder to answer. Not least because it is well nigh impossible to attempt to answer them without our already at hand dispositions and presuppositions intruding!
Could we Anglicans, for instance, seriously rethink the church without insisting that it still have bishops, priests and deacons? All are mentioned (albeit priests=presbyters) in the New Testament, but the New Testament does not prescribe our particular construction of ministry orders.
Yet, the alternative, walking away from such questions and continuing to muddle along as we currently do, may not be much of an option. For starters, unless we radically rethink what we are doing, we may cease to exist!
What I have been challenged about, recently, by Bowman Walton (here), and by others elsewhere, (off-blog) is to tackle the questions I raise above with a "kingdom" mindset.
What did Jesus come to establish? It was the kingdom of God?
What does that involve? Precise orders of ministry? No. The kingdom of God is abundant life lived in direct relationship to God as Ruler of that life. In Pauline terms (cf. Romans) it is the "obedience of faith."
Put in other words, a constant challenge posed by the Incarnation is to keep the main thing the main thing, to think "big picture" and to destroy all idols (so that God truly is King).
To give an example as I close - better get this out before Christmas - and a timely one as the new female Bishop of London, Sarah Mullally is announced, the enduring question of the ordination of women as priests and bishops.
Would Jesus, incarnate in the world today, take account of and work with the new mode of women participating equally with men in social, economic, political, educational and cultural life? Or would he bewail this modern development and sternly admonish us to get back to the old ways? Would his great apostolic interpreter, Paul, prescriptively set down 1 Timothy 2:11-15 for today's church?
I think not.
In this world of flesh and blood, the Word entering, engaging and encountering us as one of us would continue to proclaim the Kingdom of God, calling all, men and women, Jews and Gentiles, bosses and workers into it, commanding us all to participate equally in doing God's will on earth as it is in heaven. In neither heaven or the Kingdom of heaven is there gender discrimination.
The incarnate Jesus today would make that clear! The body of Christ on earth today is becoming clear on this matter (albeit faster in some places than in others ...).
For Anglicans working out what it means to be Anglican, what does the incarnation mean for theology/hermeneutics today? The English Reformation was one meaning for "today" of the 16th century. The first Anglican missions in Aotearoa New Zealand were another meaning for the "today" of the 19th century Down Under.
So, what does being Anglicans following the Incarnate One mean today?
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There is NO invitation here to resume discussion of That Topic. The implication of "incarnation" as a hermeneutical consideration can be discussed on your own blog or Facebook page. Or, EVENTUALLY, when we resume discussion here ... after the Working Group's final report.
NOTE: In the background to this post and others in a series of "Upstream" posts is this comment by Bowman Walton, recently made here:
""I hope you will not despair of the loss of sight here of your appeal for debate about what is upstream rather than what is downstream."
It is worthwhile to try to identify the upstream assumptions that bedevil downstream discussion, so from time to time I try. My inspiration is the patient work of that 1922 CoE commission on doctrine that reported in 1938.
But even they admitted to a difficult problem: better thought had overtaken the positions that they were trying to reconcile. This could happen to That Topic in the C21 as it happened to the notion of *eucharistic sacrifice* in the C20. For subversive example, what if Romans 1:18-32 really is *prosopoeia*?